Vaccinations are the most important line of defense against the flu.
Seasonal flu shots are normally very effective in preventing that strain of flu. A vaccine for the novel influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) is included in the seasonal flu vaccination and is expected to be effective in preventing that strain.
Because the virus strains that cause the flu change from year to year it is important for most people to receive a vaccination every year if they fall into groups identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Vaccination recommendations for the flu
- Annual vaccination is recommended for people ages 6 months and older.
- Children 6 months - 8 years who did not receive two or more seasonal influenza doses since July 2010, will need two doses this flu season.
- Everyone who wants to reduce the risk of becoming sick with the flu or passing it on to others should be vaccinated.
People who have medical conditions
People with the following medical conditions are at a higher risk for flu-related complications:
- Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury]
- Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis)
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
- Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
- Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus)
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
- Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids)
- People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 40 or greater)
Who should not be vaccinated with the influenza shot
There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:
- People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
- People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
- Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
You cannot become infected with the flu virus from vaccinations. Flu shots do not contain a live virus.
It takes about two weeks after you receive the shot to develop immunity.
There are few side effects for most persons receiving flu shots. These may include a sore arm where the shot was administered, a slight fever or body aches.
In most cases, the side effects only last a few days. If you develop more severe reactions, contact your health care provider immediately.