Getting an annual flu vaccine is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from the flu. A flu vaccination can help reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, missed work, missed school as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.
- Everyone 6 months of age and older with rare exceptions.
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.
- Flu vaccines are approved for pregnant women, but certain States require that only a Preservative-Free vaccine be given.
- Children younger than 6 months of age.
- People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.
- People who have an active nerve disorder should talk with their doctor.
- People with a fever, or active respiratory or other infection or illness should talk with their doctor.
- Individuals with thrombocytopenia or any coagulation disorder that would contraindicate intramuscular injection. (Consult your own physician to find out if the benefits outweigh the risk of administration)
If you ever have doubts or questions, please consult your physician before receiving the vaccine.
- If you have an allergy to eggs or any of the ingredients in the vaccine. Talk to your doctor about your allergy.
- If you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralyzing illness, also called GBS). Some people with a history of GBS should not get this vaccine. Talk to your doctor about your GBS history.
- If you are not feeling well, talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
The best time to get vaccinated is from October through November. The “flu season” in the United States is usually from November through April of each year. You can still benefit from getting vaccinated after November, but keep in mind that once you get vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for your body to produce protective antibodies. During this time, flu viruses are circulating in the population.
Most people who receive the vaccine have either a very mild reaction or no reaction at all. The most common side effect is soreness in the arm where the injection was given. This usually will last for up to 48 hours. Less common side effects are fever and malaise. It should be noted that there is a possibility, as with any vaccine or drug, that an allergic or other serious reaction, or even death, could occur. Also, medical events completely unrelated to the vaccine may occur coincidentally following vaccination.
Flu vaccinations are recommended for woman that are nursing or pregnant; however several States, including California, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New York, and Washington have passed legislation that prohibit administration of any vaccine containing trace amounts of Thimerosal (Mercury) to a knowingly pregnant woman (nursing included) and to children under 3 years of age. Individuals living in these States will want to receive a Preservative-Free flu vaccination. (Trace amounts and age group vary by State)
Manufacturers package flu vaccine in either a Multi-Dose Vial (MDV) or as a Preservative-Free (PF) syringe. The MDV contains Thimerosal (Mercury) which is used to prevent bacterial growth and exceeds the trace amounts allowed by each State listed above.
The single best way to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. Other steps to protect yourself include:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.