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Note: The content on this page is current but will likely change in summer or early fall to reflect a possible change to the U.S. influenza vaccination policy for 2016-2017. Once this change is approved and published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the content on this website will be updated before the 2016-2017 influenza season.
Vaccines to Prevent Influenza (Flu)
Everyone six months of age and older should get the flu vaccine. Seasonal flu vaccines have a very good safety track record.
Use the Flu Vaccine Finder to find a flu vaccine location near you this flu season. The 2015-2016 vaccine is now available.
The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu this season. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Get the vaccine soon after it becomes available in your area, ideally by October, to ensure that you are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season. Flu season usually peaks between December and February, but activity can last as late as May. Early immunization is the most effective, but it is not too late to get the vaccine in January or beyond.
There are two different types of flu vaccines, trivalent and quadrivalent.
Trivalent vaccines protect against two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2) and an influenza B virus. Trivalent vaccines are available in:
Quadivalent vaccines protect against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. Quadrivalent vaccines are available in:
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone six months and older should get vaccinated annually.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu. That's why it's better to get vaccinated early in the fall, so you are protected before flu begins spreading in your community.
Seasonal flu vaccines have a very good safety track record. Although there are possible side effects to vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration closely monitor the safety of seasonal flu vaccines.
If you are sick with a fever, you should wait until your fever is gone before getting a flu shot. However, you can get a flu shot if you have a respiratory illness without a fever, or if you have another mild illness.
The nasal-spray flu vaccine can be given to people with minor illnesses, such as:
If you have nasal congestion, you should consider waiting to get the nasal-spray flu vaccine. Nasal congestion may limit the vaccine's ability to reach the nasal lining.
There are different side effects that may be associated with getting a flu shot or a nasal spray flu vaccine.. Possible mild side effects of the flu shot include:
Possible mild side effects of the nasal spray include:
Serious side effects usually begin within a few minutes to a few hours after receiving the shot. Possible serious side effects of vaccination include:
If you experience any of these reactions, seek medical attention immediately.
Contact your health care provider immediately if you have a serious reaction to the flu vaccine. Your health care provider should report your reaction to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). You can also file a report yourself. All serious reactions should be reported, even if you aren’t sure it was caused by the flu vaccine. VAERS uses this data to help identify serious reactions that may need further investigation.
If your reaction results in a serious injury, you may qualify for compensation from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). VICP provides compensation for vaccine-related injury or death claims for covered vaccines given on or after October 1, 1988.
No, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal spray. The flu shot contains inactivated (killed) flu viruses that cannot cause illness. The nasal spray contains weakened live viruses. The weakened viruses only cause infection in the cooler temperatures found in the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas in the body where warmer temperatures exist.
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines, but you should check with your insurance company before visiting your health care provider. Under the Affordable Care Act, many insurers are required to cover certain preventive services, like the flu vaccine, at no cost to you.
If you do not have insurance or if it does not cover vaccines, help is available.
Talk to your health care provider about vaccination if you have: