What You Need to Know About the Flu Vaccine
This year’s annual flu shot will offer protection against H1N1 flu (swine flu) virus, in addition to two other influenza viruses that are expected to be in circulation this flu season.
A vaccine that protects against four strains of the virus will also be available, as will a high-dose flu vaccine for adults age 65 and older.
As you can see there are many different flu vaccines and the general population believes that there is just one. This article explains why you need a vaccination and why you need to also speak to you Dr. about which one is best before heading into your neighborhood Walgreens to get a flu shot.
What is Influenza (Flu)?
Influenza is a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, particularly for young children and for older adults. Flu shots are the most effective way to prevent influenza and its complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated annually against influenza.
Here are the answers to common questions about flu shots:
When is the flu vaccine available?
Because the flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, its availability depends on when production is completed. Doctors and nurses are encouraged to begin vaccinating people as soon as flu vaccine is available in their areas.
It takes up to two weeks to build immunity after a flu shot, but you can benefit from the vaccine even if you don’t get it until after flu season starts.
Why do I need to get vaccinated every year?
New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly adapting flu viruses. Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses.
After vaccination, your immune system produces antibodies that will protect you from the vaccine viruses.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccinations for everyone age 6 months or older. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of influenza complications, including:
- Pregnant women
- Older adults
- Young children
- Children between 6 months and 8 years may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected. Check with your child’s pediatrician.
Chronic medical conditions can also increase your risk of influenza complications. Examples include:
- Cancer or cancer treatment
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Kidney or liver disease
Who shouldn’t get a flu shot?
Check with your doctor before receiving a flu vaccine if:
You’re allergic to eggs. Some flu vaccines contain tiny amounts of egg proteins. If you have an egg allergy or sensitivity, you’ll likely be able to receive a flu vaccine — but you might need to take special precautions, such as waiting in the doctor’s office for at least 30 minutes after vaccination in case of a reaction. There are also flu vaccines that don’t contain egg proteins, and are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for use in people age 18 and older. Consult your doctor about your options.
- You had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine. The flu vaccine isn’t recommended for anyone who had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine.
What kind of protection does the flu vaccine offer?
How well the flu vaccine works can vary. According to the CDC, in past flu seasons when the match between flu vaccine and circulating strains of flu virus is close, a flu shot is 71 percent effective in reducing flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages, and 77 percent effective among adults ages 50 and older. The flu shot may reduce a child’s risk by 74 percent.
Can I lower my risk of the flu without getting a flu shot?
With or without a flu shot, you can take steps to help protect yourself from the flu and other viruses. Good hygiene remains your primary defense against contagious illnesses.
Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.
Use an alcohol-based sanitizer on your hands if soap and water aren’t available.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible.
Avoid crowds when the flu is most prevalent in your area.
Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids, eat a nutritious diet, and manage your stress.