Another year, another autumn dilemma: To get the flu shot or not to get the flu shot? Plenty of people grapple with the decision to get vaccinated, and misinformation about the vaccine abounds. One Medical Group’s Malcolm Thaler, MD addresses all the most common questions and concerns about the flu vaccine so you can make the right decision this flu season.
Do I have to get the flu shot?
You don’t have to, but it’s highly recommended that everyone six months of age or older get the flu vaccine.
How effective is the flu shot? If I get the flu shot am I guaranteed not to get the flu?
The best estimate is that the vaccine reduces the risk of flu by about 60 percent. But even though it’s not foolproof, it can be even more effective at preventing serious flu complications like pneumonia, which requires hospitalization and can even lead to death.
Can I get the flu from the flu shot?
No, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu—it does not contain viable viruses.
What are the side effects of the flu shot?
The side effects are none to minimal. They include soreness at the site of the shot and occasionally a mild viral syndrome (low grade fever, muscle aches, nausea, etc.).
I have never gotten a flu shot or had the flu—why should I get it now?
If you have never gotten the flu shot, you should start getting it now. The real question is: Why not? Why run the risk of contracting such a miserable illness when there is a simple tool to substantially lower your risk? Also remember that by getting the shot, you’re protecting those around you. It’ll prevent you from carrying the virus home, to work, or to school with you.
I got the flu shot last year. Do I need to get it again?
The current vaccine covers the most common strains of the flu circulating worldwide. This year’s vaccine contains new viruses to cover those currently circulating in the population; therefore, vaccination is particularly important this year.
Flu viruses can occasionally mutate, and there is no effective solution when this occurs. However, the CDC has taken all appropriate measures to ensure this year’s vaccine suitably matches the viruses currently in circulation.
Does this cover swine/avian flu?
Swine flu and avian flu is not included in the flu vaccine.
Are high-dose vaccines required for elderly patients?
While high-dose vaccines generally do not offer better protection for elderly patients, there is an exception: People 85 and older who receive higher-dose vaccines require fewer hospitalizations for the flu and pneumonia.
Should children receive a nasal vaccine?
We no longer recommend the inactivated nasal vaccine (LAIV) over the standard vaccine for children between the ages of two and eight, as the evidence doesn’t support its superiority.
The flu never really hurt anyone—what’s the big deal with getting a flu shot?
The flu can range from a mild nuisance to a devastating illness. While it’s usually a viral syndrome that sometimes gets bad enough to force you to stay in bed for a few days, if the complications mentioned above arise, it can escalate quickly. Mortality varies year to year depending on the particular strain, but in one worst-case scenario, the 1918 flu pandemic killed an estimated 30 to 50 million people across the globe. Generally, those most at risk are the very young, the very old, and those with chronic underlying illnesses.