What You Need to Know About the Flu Shot
The annual flu vaccine helps prevent the flu. It is safe and effective. The vaccine can help with several strains of the influenza virus. It causes your body to make antibodies. These antibodies help protect your body against infection.
Many strains of the flu virus exist and can change often.
The seasonal flu vaccine also changes every year. This is to keep up with the three most common strains of the virus of that year. You need to get a new vaccine every year to stay safe.
Who should get a flu shot?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, those most at risk should get the flu shot. This includes:
- Children younger than 5
- Adults 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- Anyone with a weakened immune system or chronic condition (like COPD or congestive heart failure).
Getting a flu shot is helpful for two reasons:
- Prevention: The flu vaccine prevents millions of medical visits and thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year by protecting the patient and the people around them
- Reduction of severity: Flu vaccines can reduce the severity of flu illness for people who are vaccinated but still get sick
Even healthy people should get the shot
"Healthy" people can still carry the flu virus. They can still spread it to others without showing symptoms. You may feel healthy. The shot prepares your body to fight off the flu. It also helps to kick-start your immune system.
Don’t skip a year
It's important to get a flu shot every year. Flu virus strains change. Vaccine protection declines over time. That means last year’s vaccine may not protect you from getting sick.
The shot can’t give you the flu
The shot does not give you the flu. Sometimes people are exposed prior to getting the shot. They may get sick before it takes effect (which is about 2 weeks). That’s why it’s important to get the shot early.
Egg-less flu shots are available
There is an option for those allergic to eggs. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist if the egg-less alternative is right for you.
What if the flu shot doesn’t always work?
The flu shot protects against many of the common seasonal strains. Even if different types of the virus spread, getting a shot can lessen the severity of the illness.
Think you already have the flu?
See your health care provider or visit an urgent care clinic right away. They may prescribe an antiviral drug to help reduce the severity and duration of the flu.