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Your Best Shot is the Flu Shot

Family catching falling leavesGetting vaccinated is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protection against the flu. So, go ahead and take your best shot in the fight against flu! Protect yourself and your loved ones by getting your flu shots!

Shorter days and cooler evenings are here, a sign that influenza (flu) season will be upon us soon. Flu is a contagious respiratory disease that infects the nose, throat, and lungs. People often confuse the common cold for flu because the symptoms are similar. But, colds are usually milder than flu. Flu can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death. Pneumonia and bronchitis are examples of serious flu-related complications. Flu also can cause certain health conditions, like diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung disease, to become worse. Healthy people also can become sick with the flu and experience serious complications. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who bounces back quickly from a flu illness, people around you might not be so lucky. You may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick or while you are sick with the flu.

Millions of people make a point of getting a flu vaccine in the fall. Many are following the advice of their doctor or other trusted health professional by getting vaccinated. Along with CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases and many other professional medical groups recommend an annual influenza vaccine. But there are many people who skip getting a flu vaccine, thinking that they don't work, or aren't worth the trouble. But it turns out that a lot of research has been done that shows how important getting a flu vaccine can be.

Mother and daughter

Some children 6 months through 8 years of age will require two doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection from flu.

Reasons for Getting a Flu Vaccine

While how well the flu vaccine works can vary, there are clearly a lot of reasons to get a flu vaccine every year.

  • Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick from flu.
  • Flu vaccination can help protect people who are at greater risk of getting seriously ill from flu, like pregnant women, older adults, people with chronic health conditions and young children (especially infants younger than 6 months old who are too young to get vaccinated).
  • Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick.
  • Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of more serious flu outcomes, like hospitalizations.
    • One study* showed that flu vaccine reduced children's risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012.
    • In another study, flu vaccination was associated with a 71% reduction in flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages and a 77% reduction among adults 50 years of age and older during the 2011-2012 flu season.
    • Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. Vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who have had a cardiac event in the past year. Flu vaccination also has been shown to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes (79%) and chronic lung disease (52%).
    • Vaccination helps protect women during pregnancy and their babies for several months after they are born. One study showed that giving flu vaccine to pregnant women was 92% effective in preventing flu-related hospitalizations among infants.
    • Other studies have shown that vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalizations among older adults. One study that looked at flu vaccine effectiveness over the course of three flu seasons estimated that flu vaccination lowered the risk of hospitalization by 61% among people 50 years of age and older.

*References for the studies listed above can be found at Publications on Influenza Vaccine Benefits. Also see What are the Benefits of Flu Vaccination? [276 KB]

Watch this fun video [0:30 seconds] to learn why everyone needs a flu vaccine!

A Few New Things This Season

While flu comes and goes each year, flu viruses are constantly changing, and different flu viruses can circulate and cause illness each season. Flu vaccines are made each year to protect against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common. The 2016-2017 flu vaccines have been updated from last season's vaccines to better match circulating viruses.

Something else that's new for 2016-2017 is that CDC only recommends people get injectable flu vaccines (flu shots) this season. Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) – or the nasal spray vaccine – is not recommended for use during the 2016-2017 season because of concerns about its effectiveness. There are still many different vaccine options this season. Some flu shots protect against three flu viruses and some protect against four flu viruses.

CDC recommends use of injectable influenza vaccines (including inactivated influenza vaccines and recombinant influenza vaccines) during 2016-2017. The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017.
Both trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) flu vaccines will be available. Trivalent flu vaccines include:

Quadrivalent flu vaccines include:

  • Quadrivalent flu shots approved for use in different age groups.
  • An intradermal quadrivalent flu shot, which is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot. It is approved for people 18 through 64 years of age.
  • A quadrivalent flu shot containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 4 years of age and older (new this season).

The flu vaccine with adjuvant listed above is available for the first time in the United States this season. Adjuvant is a vaccine ingredient that helps create a stronger immune response in the patient's body. This new vaccine is approved for use in people 65 years and older. People in this age group are at high risk of getting very sick from flu, but some may respond less well to vaccination. Also approved specifically for people 65 and older is the high-dose vaccine, which contains 4 times the amount of antigen as the regular-dose vaccine. In addition, there are regular-dose flu shots approved for people 65 and older, including a recombinant vaccine that is made without using flu virus. CDC doesn't have a preferential recommendation for any of the licensed and recommended vaccines this season. The most important thing is that people get vaccinated, especially those people who are at high risk of flu complications, including:

For the full list of high-risk conditions, visit People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications.;

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year by the end of October, if possible. However, getting vaccinated later can still be protective since flu viruses can circulate into May during some seasons. For this reason, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season, even in January or later. Some young children might need two doses of vaccine. A health care provider can advise on how many doses a child should get.

There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine. A person who has previously experienced a severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, should not get a flu vaccine again.

Some people may think that if they have an egg allergy, they should not get a flu vaccine. However, a history of egg allergy should not stop you from getting vaccinated. In fact, CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices have updated their guidelines on egg allergy and receipt of influenza (flu) vaccines.

Vaccine Safety

A common misconception is that flu vaccines can give you the flu. They cannot. The most common side effects from a flu shot are soreness, redness and/or swelling where the shot was given, fever, and/or muscle aches. These side effects are NOT the flu. If you do experience any side effects, they are usually mild and short-lived, especially when compared to symptoms of a bad case of flu. In fact, flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years, and there has been extensive research supporting the safety of flu vaccines. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitor the safety of vaccines approved for use in the United States.

The bottom line is that flu vaccines can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Isn't it worth a shot?

For more information on flu vaccine side effects, visit Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine.

Where to Get Vaccinated

Flu vaccine should be available widely, and in many convenient locations. See your doctor or other health care professional to get the flu vaccine, or seek out other locations where vaccine is being offered, such as pharmacies, health departments, and grocery stores. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find flu vaccine in your area.