The flu vaccine can protect you from influenza and may help with avoiding spreading it to others. Inluenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease. It is caused by the influenza virus, which can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or nasal secretions. Anyone can get influenza, but rates of infection are highest among children. For most people, symptoms are severe for a few days but last for 2 weeks. They include: fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose.
Flu can cause high fever and pneumonia, and make existing medical conditions worse. It can cause diarrhea and seizures in children. Each year thousands of people die from influenza and even more require hospitalization. Young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or a weakened immune system are especially vulnerable.
A dose of flu vaccine is recommended every flu season. It takes about 2 weeks for protection to develop after vaccination, and protection lasts through the flu season. There is no live flu virus in flu shots. They cannot cause the flu.
Annual flu shots have been thoroughly proven to both save lives and reduce medical costs. While they are only 50 % effective in eliminating influenza illness, when the circulating flu virus is in the vaccine there is a dramatic reduction in the severity of the illness. This means people don't lose a week or two of work, which is very costly and miserable for you the patient.
All people 6 months of age and older should get flu vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of severe influenza and their close contacts, including healthcare personnel and close contacts of children younger than 6 months.
Influenza can occur at any time, but most influenza occurs from October through May. We will begin to give flu shots September 1st. In recent seasons, most infections have occurred in January and February; getting vaccinated in December, or even later, will still be beneficial in most years.
Click here to visit the CDC website for more information about the influenza vaccine. Flu "Vaccine Information Statement (VIS)" are no longer updated every year. The edition dated 8/7/2015 should be used for the current flu season.