Who and When
The recommendation is that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu vaccine. It is especially recommended for certain higher-risk populations, including young children, adults over 65, pregnant women, those with heart, lung, or kidney disease, and people with weakened immune systems. Also for health care workers and those in close contact with infants younger than 6 months.
Who should NOT get vaccinated?
Tell your doctor or heath care provider if you have or have had:
- Life threatening allergies, including a severe allergy to eggs
- A severe reaction after receiving a previous influenza vaccine
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome
If you are moderately or severely ill at the time you plan to receive the vaccination, you may need to recover before getting the flu vaccine.
Can the flu vaccine make you sick?
The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The flu shot contains an inactive (“killed”) version of the virus.
What about side effects?
Like any medicine, there can be side effects from the flu vaccine. Mild side effects usually begin shortly after the shot and last 1-2 days:
- Soreness, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection
- Hoarseness; sore, red or itchy eyes; cough
- Fever, ache, headache, itching, fatigue
Young children who get inactive flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine at the same time may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever. For children there is a live but weakened influenza vaccine that is sprayed into the nostrils. This nasal-spray flu vaccine is also available for adults up to 49 years old.
Afluria, one brand of inactivated flu vaccine, should not be given to children under age 9. A related vaccine was associated with fevers and fever-related seizures in young children in Australia.
In 1976 an inactivated influenza (swine flu) vaccine was associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). Since that year however, flu vaccines have not been clearly linked to GBS.
Severe reactions to the flu vaccine occur within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot, and may include:
- High fever or unusual behavior
- Difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing
- Fast heart beat or dizziness
In cases of a severe reaction,
- Call a doctor, or get the person to a doctor/hospital immediately
- Tell the doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was received
- Tell the doctor, nurse, or health department to report the reaction to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
People who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can file a claim through The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
Does it guarantee I won’t get the flu?
No. Influenza viruses are always evolving and changing, and the vaccine is based on the viruses scientists think most likely to cause flu that year. It cannot protect you against other viruses, and other flu viruses not in the vaccine.
It takes about 2 weeks for the flu shot to give you the full protection, so you can still get the flu between the time you got the vaccination and it took effect. This is another reason not to delay getting your vaccination.
In addition, this year at least one of the viruses in the current vaccine has developed resistance to that vaccine. Health professionals do say though that the vaccination will cut down on the severity of the symptoms of the resistance virus.
For more information
- CDC Influenza page
- International Influenza
- Influenza Antiviral Drugs and Related Information
If you would like to be notified when Coach Ken publishes an article, click "subscribe" on this page. You can also read his health answers and blog on Sharecare.com, view his Wellness Blog, follow him on Twitter, and find him on Facebook. Coach Ken is also the Milwaukee Triathlon Examiner.