The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as the CDC, reports that the single best way to protect against influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated each year.
Many people believe the flu is no more serious than a cold; however, influenza is a serious viral disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. This is especially true for the very young, those over the age of 65 years, as well as people with other chronic health issues. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Several years ago, I skipped the flu vaccine, thinking I was a young mom that had a healthy immune system. I got the flu that season and was very ill. I had to have my young daughter phone her grandmother to come over because I was too sick to care for myself or my two young children. That experience made me seriously re-think the importance of the flu vaccine! I have not missed a vaccine since that year.
Flu season can begin as early as October and can last as late as May. During this time, flu viruses are circulating at higher levels in the U.S. population. Flu is usually at it’s peak in January or February each year. Because it can take 2 weeks for your body to develop flu antibodies, it’s best to get your flu vaccine as early in the season as it is available (usually around September or October). For those who didn’t get their vaccine yet, it is still a good idea to get one. Vaccines can be given throughout the flu season.
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. This recommendation has been in place since February 24, 2010 when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the United States to expand protection against the flu to more people.
Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza. More information is available at Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Influenza.
I’ve heard many people say that the flu vaccine “gave them the flu”. It is quite common for a person to have a mild fever, feel tired, and even have some muscle aches or headache as part of the natural process the body goes through while developing antibodies from a vaccine. Experiencing this does not mean a person got the flu from their vaccine.
There are different forms of flu vaccine available. The following link will take you to the CDC website, where you can learn more about the different types of flu vaccine: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm
The CDC recommends use of injectable influenza vaccines (including inactivated influenza vaccines and recombinant influenza vaccines) during 2016-2017. The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017.
Both trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) flu vaccines will be available.
Trivalent flu vaccines include:
- Standard-dose trivalent shots (IIV3) that are manufactured using virus grown in eggs. Different flu shots are approved for different age groups. Most flu shots are given in the arm (muscle) with a needle. One trivalent vaccine formulation can be given with a jet injector, for persons aged 18 through 64 years.
- A high-dose trivalent shot, approved for people 65 and older.
- A recombinant trivalent shot that is egg-free, approved for people 18 years and older.
- A trivalent flu shot made with adjuvant (an ingredient of a vaccine that helps create a stronger immune response in the patient’s body), approved for people 65 years of age and older (new this season).
Quadrivalent flu vaccines include:
- Quadrivalent flu shots approved for use in different age groups.
- An intradermal quadrivalent flu shot, which is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot. It is approved for people 18 through 64 years of age.
- A quadrivalent flu shot containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 4 years of age and older (new this season).
If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor or other health care professional.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)