Why should I get a flu vaccine?
The flu or influenza is a serious disease that has the ability to spread from person-to-person easily. Getting the flu can cause you to miss work, school and social plans for up to 2 weeks. In some instances infection can lead to hospitalization or, in severe cases, death. Even the healthiest people can get very sick from the flu. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through the community.
How does the flu vaccine work?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to form in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies protect you against flu virus infection.
When should I get the flu vaccine?
Flu vaccination should begin soon after the vaccine becomes available, if possible by October. However, vaccination is offered throughout the flu season. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against virus infection, it is best that you get vaccinated early so you are protected before the flu begins spreading.
Why do I need to get a flu vaccine every year?
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons:
- The body's protective immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed in order to get the best protection.
- Flu viruses are constantly changing. The formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses.
Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
No, a flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines are made in two ways:
- Flu vaccine viruses that have been 'inactivated' and therefore not infectious
- With no flu viruses at all
So it is not possible to get the flu from the vaccine. Some minor side effects that may occur are:
- Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
- Low grade fever
Don’t worry if you experience any of these side effects as they usually only last between 1-2 days. If the side effects last longer, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
Who should not get vaccinated or should wait?
Some people should talk with a doctor first before getting a flu shot. This includes:
- People who have a severe allergy to eggs or life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine including its ingredients
- People who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccination
- People less than 6 months old
- People who have developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome within 6 weeks of getting a flu vaccine
- People who have a moderate to severe illness or are feeling sick
If you are unsure or have questions regarding any of these factors, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
What is the difference between available flu vaccines?
There are three main types of flu vaccines:
- Three-strain vaccine: made to protect against 3 different flu viruses
- Four-strain vaccine: protects against 4 different strains of flu virus
- High-dose vaccine (recommended for those 65 years and older): contains the same 3 virus strains but is four times more potent - this helps older individuals develop a better immune response, gives better protection against the flu and also helps prevent flu-related complications.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations including doctor's offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers.
Where can I learn more?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.CDC.gov/flu