Influenza (flu) is a contagious disease which affects the lungs and can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia. Even healthy people can get sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of time or even be hospitalized. A flu vaccine is your best defense against this common virus. Vaccines have changed the face of healthcare, especially for children. But you may still have some questions, like why you have to get it every year, or when it’s best to receive the vaccine. Our expert providers give answers to these questions and more below.
Are vaccines safe?
Yes! They have been given to hundreds of millions of people for more than 50 years and have a very good safety track record. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other partners to ensure the highest safety standards for flu vaccines. Before a vaccine is approved for use in the U.S., it goes through years of careful testing and clinical studies. The FDA also inspects the sites where vaccines are made to ensure they follow strict manufacturing guidelines. And once a vaccine is licensed, the CDC and FDA continue to monitor its use, effectiveness, and safety.
Can I get sick with the flu directly from the vaccine?
No. Flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. The viruses used to make the vaccines are ‘inactivated’ (killed) or attenuated (weakened). Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. Like any medication, some may experience side effects from the vaccine. For example, some may feel achy or may have a sore arm where the shot was given, but these side effects are NOT the flu. Instances of these reactions are also usually mild and last only 1-2 days.
Why do I need to get a flu vaccine every year?
Because the flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines are updated each season. Scientists and physicians use research to make a vaccine that will protect against the viruses that are most likely to circulate each season. A person’s immunity toward a particular virus does decline over time. Annual vaccination against the flu is necessary for optimal protection.
There are several types of flu vaccines. What is the difference and which is best for me?
For years, flu vaccines were designed to protect against three different flu viruses (trivalent). This type of vaccine included protections against an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one influenza B virus. But there are two different lineages of B viruses that circulate during most flu seasons, leaving the public vulnerable to one of these groups. The quadrivalent vaccine was designed to combat this problem, providing protection against two influenza A viruses, and two influenza B viruses.
The vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, with rare exception. The CDC recommends a high-dose vaccine for those 65 and older, as they are especially vulnerable to the risk of flu. Receiving any type of flu vaccine is better than no vaccine at all, but it is best to consult with your primary care provider. Other high risk populations include young children, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
I’m pregnant, so I shouldn’t get the vaccine, right?
You should absolutely get the vaccine. The flu vaccine actually protects babies from getting influenza in the months following their birth. Pregnant women who get the vaccine pass their immunity to their babies through the flu antibodies they develop. This protection lasts for several months after birth. Studies have documented influenza protections in newborns up to 4 months after birth.
Where can I receive a flu shot? Do I have to schedule a separate appointment?
For your convenience, Medical Associates Clinic offers flu vaccine at all of our clinic locations. If you have an appointment already scheduled with your primary care provider this fall, you do not need to schedule a separate flu shot appointment with us. Simply ask to receive your vaccine then. If you do not have an appointment coming up with your primary care provider, click this link to view all the information on flu clinic locations, dates, and times. Find the one that works best for you and call to schedule an appointment.
Also, to better accommodate our busy patient families, our pediatrics department will vaccinate all children and parents in one visit.
Please be sure to keep record of when you received your vaccine and avoid getting a duplicate shot. And if you have any further questions regarding the flu vaccine, please call your doctor’s office.
For further general information about flu vaccination, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu.