The Flu Vaccine: Your Best Option Against Influenza
Who should receive the seasonal flu vaccine?
It is recommended that everyone at least 6 months of age receive an annual flu vaccine. Certain individuals are at increased risk of contracting the flu including children (< 2 years of age), adults older than 65 years, those with chronic lung disease (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, cystic fibrosis), diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS, cancer, or chronic steroid use, and pregnant women1. Individuals who live or work with high-risk patients should also be vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease to these vulnerable populations.
There are different types of flu vaccines available. The flu shot is an inactivated or killed vaccine, which is given into the muscle, usually into the upper arm2. A needle-free nasal spray, FluMist®, is also available and contains live vaccine that has been weakened. The nasal spray is available to healthy individuals aged 2 to 49 years3. A high-dose vaccine is another injectable option for adults 65 years and older.
Side effects to the flu shot are very minimal and may include soreness or redness at the injection site, a slight headache, or a low grade fever. Serious allergic reactions are very rare, but precautions should be taken in people with severe allergies to eggs, who have had a serious reaction to the flu vaccine in the past, or who have experienced a neurological syndrome called Guillain-Barré syndrome2. The flu shot CANNOT cause the flu.