Who needs a flu vaccine?
Influenza (the flu) is more than just a bad cold. People can suffer with fever, cough, sore throat and body aches for several days. Influenza causes thousands of deaths and hospitalizations every year. Getting a flu vaccine is the best way to prevent flu.
The flu viruses that circulate can change from year to year and can affect people differently based on the virus and the person’s ability to fight infection. Some flu seasons are worse than others and there is no way to predict how severe the flu season will be. All 2018-2019 influenza vaccines protect against the following three viruses:
- A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus.
- A/Singapore/INFIMH-16-0019/2016 (H3N2)-like.
- B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage).
In addition to the above, 2018-2019 quadrivalent vaccines protect against:
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage).
All of the flu vaccines supplied by the Vaccines For Children Program in Washington are quadrivalent.
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Who should get the flu vaccination?The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over age 6 months get a flu vaccine. Babies under age 6 months are too young to get the flu vaccine, and people who have had a serious severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine in the past should not get one. People who have had severe egg allergy or a very rare nervous system condition called Guillian-Barre syndrome should talk to their doctor before they get a flu shot.
If I got a flu vaccination last year, do I need one again this year?Yes. Each year, vaccines companies make a new vaccine from flu viruses that we expect to be present during the season.
When should I get a flu vaccination?For the best protection, get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available. But you can get it any time during the flu season. In the Pacific Northwest, flu activity is usually at the highest level in January or February, and can go longer.
Do children need more than one dose of flu vaccine per year?In general, children under age 9 need two doses of flu vaccine the first year they start getting the vaccinations. If I child age 6 months to 9 years has not had two flu vaccines total in their lifetime, they should receive two doses this season. The two doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart.
Are there side effects to the flu vaccine?Most people do not have any side effects. If they do happen, they are usually mild. The most common side effects are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot is given. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.
How effective is the flu vaccine?The effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends on the match between the flu vaccine and the types of flu viruses that are circulating. If there is a good match, the flu vaccine is usually over 60% effective in healthy adults. Flu vaccine is generally somewhat less effective in elderly persons and very young children, but vaccination can still prevent serious complications. The flu vaccine is more effective in healthy people, and it is important for healthy people to receive the flu shot to protect people close to them who may not be healthy.
Is the flu vaccination safe?Yes, the flu vaccination is very safe. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hold vaccines to the highest safety standards. Flu vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people and have been made the same way for decades. As with all vaccines, flu vaccine testing and safety monitoring are done in multiple phases. For vaccines to be approved, the manufacturing facilities and processes must meet standards to make sure that the vaccines are pure and effective. After vaccines are approved, each batch is tested before it is released to check purity and strength. Several systems are in place to watch for possible side effects after vaccines are given.
Is the nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist) available this season?
Yes, the nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist) is available this season and is included in the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations.
What about an egg allergy and the flu vaccine?Most flu vaccines are made using eggs. If you can eat scrambled eggs without a reaction, you can get a flu shot. If you get hives after eating eggs, you can get a flu shot if the vaccine is given in a medical setting. This way you can get immediate treatment for a severe allergic reaction if you have one. You should be observed for at least 30 minutes to make sure you will not have a serious allergic reaction. Another type of vaccine using recombinant technology instead of eggs is also available' (RIV3, tradename Flublok) and can be used for people age 18-49.
Is there a special type of flu vaccine available for seniors?Yes. There are two products approved for people 65 and older, Fluzone High-Dose and FLUAD. Both were made to be more effective for seniors. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) does not recommend any particular flu vaccine. People 65 and older should get a flu shot with any of the currently licensed flu vaccines for adults.
Is there mercury in the flu vaccine?
Vaccines packaged in multidose vials contain thimerosal, a preservative that protects vaccines against contamination. Thimerosal contains a small amount ethyl mercury. Other than minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site, there is no evidence of harm caused by the small amount of thimerosal in vaccines. Vaccines packaged in single-dose vials and pre-filled syringes are thimerosal-free. They are usually given to children under age 3 and pregnant women because Washington law restricts the amount of thimerosal in vaccines for pregnant women and children under age 3. Most of the flu vaccines licensed by the FDA for use in the United States do not contain thimerosal.
Does the flu vaccine cause Guillain-Barre syndrome?In 1976, a type of influenza (swine flu) vaccine was associated with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Since then, flu vaccines have not been clearly linked to GBS. GBS is a rare problem in which a person's own immune system damages the nerves, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. If there is a risk of GBS from current flu vaccines, it would be no more than one or two cases per million people vaccinated. This is much lower than the risk of complications and death from influenza. Influenza can also cause GBS. It is not fully known what causes GBS. About two-thirds of people who get GBS do so after they have been sick with diarrhea or a lung or sinus illness.