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Influenza vaccination (flu shot)

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Flu shots are available in a variety of locationsLocate both swine flu and seasonal flu shots with the flu vaccine finder services:

About the Seasonal Flu Vaccination
Calendar showing that Halloween is a good time for flu shots

The best time to get a seasonal flu vaccination is from
early October to mid-November.

(Most seasonal flu activity occurs in January or later in most years. Though it varies, flu season can last as late as May.)

The vaccine can also be given at any point during the flu season, even if the virus has already begun to spread in your community. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection.

Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses.

  • There are currently two seasonal flu vaccine options, the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine. The shot gives more reliable protection and the spray is recommended only for non-high risk groups. The nasal-spray flu vaccine – a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu, is approved for use in healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.

  • The flu shot does not guarantee that you are 100% protected. You might become infected with a strain of the flu that is not covered in this year's flu shot. Furthermore, recent studies have found that the vaccine may not be as protective for children under the age of two.

  • You need a seasonal flu vaccine every year because the virus is constantly changing and new vaccines are developed annually to protect against new strains.
Who Should Get the Seasonal Flu Vaccination? from the CDC
Child Pregnant woman Grandparents, baby, and caregiver People with chronic disease Elderly woman in the nursing home Child and adult roller skating Health care worker
  • People who should get vaccinated each year are:
    • Children aged 6 months to 18 years,
    • Pregnant women,
    • People 50 years of age and older,
    • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, and
    • People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu (see above)
    • Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
    • Health care workers.
  • Anyone who wants to decrease their risk
You should NOT get the flu vaccination this year if…
  • you are allergic to eggs or any component of the vaccine. The viral material in flu vaccines is grown in eggs.
  • you have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
  • you have an acute illness and a fever. You should not get a flu shot until you are feeling better.
Side effects and adverse reactions to flu vaccinations from the American Lung Association

The flu vaccine is made from a virus that is no longer active, so no one can catch the flu from a flu shot. Less than one out of three people will develop soreness around the injection site for one or two days. In a few cases, a person may develop a fever, muscle aches, and feel unwell for a day or two. In very rare cases when a person is allergic to the vaccine, there may be an immediate reaction. A recent American Lung Association study has proven that the flu shot does not increase asthma attacks.

Guillain-Barré syndrome: In a recent study, influenza immunization appeared to increase the relative risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome, but because the occurrence of Guillain-Barré Syndrome is so rare, this corresponds to a very low absolute risk of getting Guillain-Barré from a flu shot. In other words, the absolute risk of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome is very low, yet the benefit of getting the flu shot is high, in terms of preventing illness and lost work time.(15) The CDC describes the risk as one person out of 1 million vaccinated persons may develop Guillain-Barré syndrome associated with the influenza vaccine.(16)

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--Written by N Thompson, MSN, ARNP Last updated November 2009

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