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Flu prevention and vaccine information

What you need to know this flu season to stay healthy and prevent the spread of influenza.

Table of Contents

How can the flu be prevented?

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated for flu. It is especially important that the people listed below get a flu shot every year.

  • Children aged 6 months through 18 years
    • Note: The flu vaccine is now required for all Massachusetts school students enrolled in child care, pre-school, K-12, and post-secondary institutions. More information can be found here.
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • Pregnant and postpartum women
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, neurologic and neuromuscular conditions and weakened immune systems
  • People with muscle and nerve disorders that make it difficult to breath or swallow
  • Children aged 6 months through 18 years on long-term aspirin therapy
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities
  • Anyone who might transmit flu to someone at risk. For example, health care workers, including those in training, emergency response workers, direct care staff, people who live with or care for anyone on the list above, and people who live with or care for infants under 6 months of age, including parents, siblings, and daycare providers

Why should I get the flu vaccine?

Flu vaccine offers the best protection against flu-related illness, hospitalization, and death. During the 2016–2017 season, vaccination prevented an estimated 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits, and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through the community.

It is especially important to get the flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Flu vaccination reduces the prevalence and severity of illness caused by flu, reducing symptoms that might be confused with those of COVID-19
  • It will reduce the overall burden of respiratory illness that will protect people at higher risk for severe illness of both flu and COVID-19 
  • The reduction of outpatient illnesses, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions from flu vaccination will alleviate stress on the health care system

For additional information, please see the CDC page: This Season a Flu Vaccine is More Important than Ever!

Should I get my child vaccinated?

Yes, a flu vaccine offers the best defense against getting the flu and spreading it to others. Children younger than 5 years of age — especially those younger than 2 years old — are at high risk of serious flu-related complications.

The flu vaccine is now required for all Massachusetts school students enrolled in child care, pre-school, K-12, and post-secondary institutions. Learn more from the August 19, 2020 press release.

Flu vaccination has been found to reduce deaths in children. A study in Pediatrics was the first of its kind to show that influenza vaccination is effective in preventing influenza-associated deaths among children.

A total of 188 pediatric deaths had been reported to CDC during the 2019-2020 season.

Where can I find the flu vaccine?

Find out where you can get a flu vaccine by asking your primary care provider, going to a local pharmacy, or visiting vaccinefinder.org. The flu vaccine helps your body protect against the flu and it is your best protection against the virus. Getting flu vaccine will not give you the flu.

I still got the flu after the flu vaccine. Why should I get the flu vaccine this year?

Although the flu vaccine won’t prevent every case of the flu, getting an annual vaccination is the best way to reduce your risk of serious illness. Getting the flu vaccine may make illness milder. A 2017 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) showed that influenza vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized influenza patients.

A flu shot cannot cause flu illness. If you get flu-like symptoms after receiving the flu vaccine, there may be a few reasons why you have a low grade fever, and headache, but those may be mild side-effects of the vaccine. If you get diagnosed with the flu shortly after receiving the flu vaccine, you may have been exposed to the flu virus beforehand, as it takes approximately two weeks for the vaccine to work.

I heard that the flu vaccine was not very effective. Why should I get it if it’s not effective?

While vaccine effectiveness can vary, studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. Remember, if you don’t get a vaccine at all, that’s 0% effective.

What flu vaccine should I get?

Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups of people. There are flu shots approved for use in children as young as 6 months of age and flu shots approved for use in adults 65 years and older. Flu shots also are recommended for use in pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. The nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in non-pregnant individuals, 2 years through 49 years of age. People with some medical conditions should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine. Your provider will know which flu vaccine is best for you to receive.

Resources

Remember, protect yourself, your loved ones, as well as all those around you by getting a flu vaccine! Ask your healthcare provider what flu vaccine is best for you and your family.

Find out where you can get a flu vaccine by asking your primary care provider, going to a local pharmacy, or visiting vaccinefinder.org.

To learn more about the flu, visit flu information for general public website or www.cdc.gov/flu.

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