Who should get the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, every year. The only exceptions are people with a severe allergy to something in the vaccine.
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.
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. Flu vaccination was also 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.
As of August 25, 2018, a total of 180 pediatric deaths had been reported to CDC during the 2017-2018 season. This number exceeds the previously highest number of flu-associated deaths in children reported during a regular flu season (171 during the 2012-2013 season). Approximately 80% of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination.
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 may be sore, 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, recent 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. The 2017-2018 flu season was very severe and the flu vaccine remained the best protection against flu and flu-related complications. The overall vaccine effectiveness (VE) of the 2017-2018 flu vaccine against both influenza A and B viruses is estimated to be 40%. This means the flu vaccine reduced a person’s overall risk of having to seek medical care at a doctor’s office for flu illness by 40%. 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.
I heard that the nasal spray flu vaccine is back. What is important to know about that vaccine?
While the nasal spray (LAIV4) was not recommended for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons, it is included in the recommendations for this flu season. It is believed that one of the reasons why LAIV was not effective was that the one of the strains (H1N1) was not able to reproduce well in the nose, which is necessary for an immune response. As a result, the nasal spray vaccine did not work as well during any flu season that had more H1N1 flu cases. The manufacturer has since replaced the H1N1 strain in their vaccine. This is an example of how vaccines are continuously monitored and evaluated in the United States to provide the best tools available against influenza and other diseases.
The CDC recommends the nasal spray vaccine as an option for the 2018-2019 flu season. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the flu shot as the best choice for children this season. The AAP says that the nasal spray may be used for children who are healthy and at least 2 years old if they wouldn’t get vaccinated otherwise (e.g., they refuse the shot). Both CDC and AAP have the same goal – to make sure people are protected against flu and flu-related complications.
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.