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Quick Facts about the Flu Vaccine

The seasonal flu affects millions of people each year. Fortunately, the flu vaccine can help prevent the flu. Here is important information about the flu vaccine.

  • The annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. The vaccine lessens the chance you will get the flu and helps prevent the virus from spreading to others.
  • The flu vaccine does not cause the flu. The influenza viruses in the flu shot are dead, and they cannot cause an infection.
  • You'll need a new vaccine each year. Every flu season is different, and every year the vaccine is reformulated to protect against the three viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season.
  • Once you get the vaccine, you will be protected from the flu in about two weeks. The vaccine encourages your body build antibodies to the flu virus. These antibodies will protect you from the flu for the rest of the flu season.
  • Side effects include soreness and swelling where the shot was given. You may also experience a low-grade fever or body aches. These symptoms can last a day or two.
  • Those in a high-risk groups should be vaccinated early in the season. This includes people who could develop serious complications if they get sick with the flu, such as those with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and people age sixty-five and older.
  • People who work with high-risk patients, including those who work in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, should be vaccinated early on.
  • Certain people should not be vaccinated, including those who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, those who have had a reaction to the vaccine in the past, and those with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Also, children under six months of age should not be vaccinated.
  • The vaccine is usually available in September. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available. However, flu season generally peaks in January or February, so getting the vaccine as late as December will offer protection.
  • A nasal-spray vaccine is also available for healthy children and adults. The nasal-spray vaccine is made with live, weakened flu viruses and given in a spray. Because the viruses are weakened, they will not cause the flu.


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