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10 Things You Should Know About Flu Vaccines

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10 Things You Should Know About Flu Vaccines
By Jessica Minor


The flu is a viral infection that is spread from person to person in secretions of the nose and lungs, for example when sneezing. Medically, it is referred to as influenza. Flu is a respiratory infection, that is, an infection that develops primarily in the lungs. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control, the virus kills on average 36,000 Americans annually. To prevent the flu many people decide to get a flu “shot” or vaccine. However, before receiving a flu shot it’s important to understand why and how the flu vaccinations work.

1. There are two types of vaccines:
• The “flu shot” -an inactivated vaccine that is given with a needle, usually in the arm.

• The nasal-spray flu vaccine: a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu.

2. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The viruses in the vaccine change every year based on international observation and scientists’ assessment about which strains of viruses will circulate in a given year. For example, the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 provided research into incorporating the H1N1 vaccine into the seasonal flu vaccine the following year (2010-2011 season).

3. While it is recommended for everyone 6 months and up to get a flu vaccine, for some people it is a necessity, either because they are at a higher risk of getting the flu or because they work with or live with someone with a higher risk of getting the flu. Examples of some people who should seriously consider receiving the flu vaccine include:
• Children (6 months to up to 5 years)

• Pregnant Women

• Elderly (50 years of age or older)

• People with chronic medical conditions (such as AIDS/HIV, congestive heart failure, asthma, diabetes, etc.)

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• People who work with or live with people with chronic medical conditions (such as health care professionals, nursing home workers, etc.)

4. For many years, vaccines have been produced in chicken eggs. For this reason, people allergic to chicken eggs should avoid receiving the flu vaccine. Some other people who should avoid receiving the flu vaccine before talking with their physician include:
• Anyone who has had a serious reaction to an influenza vaccination.

• Anyone who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (A rare disorder where a person’s immune system causes damage to their nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and even paralysis.) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.

• Children under the age of 6 months.

• Anyone with a fever should wait at least 24 hours before receiving the vaccine.

5. As with any type of vaccine some side effects may occur. The most common side effects include:
• The “flu shot”

• Soreness or swelling where the shot was given

• Slight fever

• Body aches

• The nasal spray flu vaccine

• Runny nose

• Headache

• Fever

• Muscle aches

• Vomiting

• Cough/Sore throat

• Wheezing

6. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to be fully effective. For this reason, if you are exposed to the influenza virus right before or during these two weeks you can catch the flu.

7. It’s important to remember that occasionally the virus strains used for the vaccines don’t “match” the viruses that may be in circulation the entire flu season. For this reason, some people may still catch the flu and may think the vaccine did not work, however, that is not the case.

8. The “flu season” occurs from November to April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March. The vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November to allow the body a chance to build up immunity to, or protection from, the virus. However, many health facilities now provide flu vaccines all year round.

9. It’s essential to get flu vaccinations every year since the vaccinations usually wear off after about a year. Also, as stated before, the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus for that season.

10. There’s no guarantee, even with a vaccination, to prevent everyone from getting the flu. But precautions can always be taken to help protect your risk of catching the flu. Always remember to:
• Practice good hand washing

• Never share cups or eating utensils

• Cover your mouth and nose, preferably with a tissue, when coughing or sneezing.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; germs are easily spread this way.

• If you do have the flu avoid attending work or school to prevent others from catching it.



CDC – Seasonal Influenza (Flu) – Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 25 Oct. 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>.

Flu and Chronic Medical Conditions: Asthma, Emphysema, HIV, and More.” WebMD – Better Information. Better Health. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <>.

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