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Note: For the 2016-2017 season, CDC recommends use of the flu shot (inactivated influenza vaccine or IIV) and the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV). The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) should not be used during 2016-2017. The 2016-2017 influenza vaccination recommendations are now available.
Where can I get the Vaccine?
Use the Flu Vaccine Finder to find a flu vaccine location near you this flu season. The 2016-2017 vaccine is now available.
How Effective is the Flu Vaccine?
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.
When should I get the Vaccine?
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.
How should I get the Vaccine?
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 approved for different age groups,and include:
How Long is my Flu Vaccination Good for?
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.
Does the Flu Vaccine Work Right Away?
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.
Is the Vaccine Safe?
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.
Should I get the Flu Vaccine if I’m not Feeling Well?
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.
Are there Side Effects?
There are different side effects that may be associated with getting the vaccine. Possible mild side effects 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.
How can I Report a Serious Reaction to the Vaccine?
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.
Can I get the Flu from the Vaccine?
No, you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine contains either inactivated (killed) flu viruses that cannot cause illness or no flu viruses at all. The most common side effects from the flu vaccine are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. A low-grade fever, headache and muscles aches may also occur.
Will I Need to Pay for the Vaccine?
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.
Is there anyone who should not get the Vaccine?
Talk to your health care provider about vaccination if you have:
Last reviewed: September 2016