The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual influenza (flu) vaccination for all individuals age 6 months and older. Vaccination is the best way to prevent contracting the virus. Flu vaccines are safe and effective and are the primary means for preventing flu and its complications.
What types of vaccines are available?
Flu vaccine is updated annually to protect against the influenza strains most likely to circulate each season. There are several types of flu vaccines offered at many convenient locations. Different vaccines are licensed for different age groups, and some vaccines are not recommended for some groups of people. Talk to a healthcare professional about the best vaccine for your family members.
Who should not get vaccinated against flu?
Children younger than 6 months of age are too young to get a flu vaccine. People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine (such as gelatin or antibiotics) should not get flu vaccine.
Certain people should talk to a healthcare professional before getting a flu vaccine:
- If you have an allergy to eggs or any of the ingredients in the vaccine
- If you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralyzing illness, also called GBS)
- If you are not feeling well, talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms.
A healthcare professional can help decide whether vaccination is right for you, and select the best vaccine for your situation.
Where can individuals get vaccinated?
Many healthcare professionals administer the vaccine. Local hospitals, health clinics, retail stores, and some employers may also hold vaccination clinics. To find a clinic, use the Vaccine Finder tool at http://www.vaccines.gov/.
When should individuals get vaccinated against flu?
In the US, the flu season may begin as early as October and end as late as May. The best time to receive influenza vaccination is before exposure to the virus. Make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins, as it typically takes two weeks to be protected after vaccination. Getting vaccinated any time throughout the fall and winter can still be beneficial.
How long does influenza vaccine protection last?
As influenza strains can change each season, the vaccine is effective only for the current season, so it is important to get vaccinated every year.
How many vaccinations are necessary to be protected?
An annual vaccination is all that is needed to protect against flu, except for children age 6 months through 8 years who are receiving influenza vaccination for the first time. These children require two vaccine doses, at least one month apart to ensure the best chance of being protected. Parents and caregivers should talk to their child’s pediatrician or other healthcare professional about how many doses their child needs.
Is the flu vaccine the same every year?
Circulating influenza viruses usually change from year to year. Because of this, a new vaccine is made each year to protect against the current strains. The flu vaccine is effective only for the current season, so it is important to get vaccinated every year.
Can the influenza vaccine actually cause flu?
The flu vaccine is made with influenza viruses that are either weakened or have been inactivated (killed), and only broken up parts of the inactive virus are included in the vaccine. Therefore, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. It typically takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective and during those two weeks, it is still possible for an individual to get flu or another respiratory virus.
Are there side effects to the flu vaccine?
The most frequent side effect of the injectable flu vaccine is soreness at the injection site for one to two days. Occasionally, some people experience a period of mild fever and fatigue for a day or two, following immunization. The most common side effect of the nasal-spray vaccine is runny nose. Other side effects include cold-like symptoms, such as headache, cough, sore throat, tiredness or weakness, irritability, and muscle aches.
Why is vaccinating children a priority?
Flu is a serious and potentially deadly disease that spreads very easily. Anyone can get influenza, but rates of infection are highest among children. Widespread vaccination of children may interrupt influenza transmission to others, since influenza outbreaks usually begin in children and then move to the community at large.
Is the flu vaccine safe for use in infants and young children?
Vaccination is safe and effective and currently recommended for all individuals age 6 months and older.
Should children with chronic medical conditions, like asthma or diabetes, receive a flu vaccine?
Vaccination can be beneficial to both children and adults with certain chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or who are immunocompromised because infection with influenza can exacerbate these conditions. In addition, individuals with chronic conditions are at increased risk for serious complications of flu.
Get the facts about flu and children
Public service announcement (:30 animated video) on how to detect, prevent, and treat the flu from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Getting vaccinated is the best and safest way for pregnant women to protect their babies and themselves from flu