Why get vaccinated?
Influenza ("flu") is a serious disease caused by a virus that spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat of others. Influenza can cause fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, and cough. Anyone can get the flu. Most people are ill with flu for only a few days, but some get much sicker and need to be hospitalized. Influenza causes thousands of deaths each year in the United States. Influenza vaccine can prevent the flu.
Who should get influenza vaccine?
People 6 months of age and older at risk for getting a serious case of influenza or influenza complications, e.g., pneumonia, and people in close contact with them (including all household members) should get the vaccine.
An annual flu shot is recommended for:
- Everyone 50 years of age and older
- Residents of long-term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions
- Anyone who has a long-term health problem with:
- heart disease
- kidney disease
- lung disease
- metabolic disease, such as diabetes
- anemia, and other blood disorders
- Anyone with a weakened immune system due to:
- HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
- Long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids
- Cancer treatment with radiation or drugs
- Anyone 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment (who could develop Reye Syndrome if they catch the flu)
- Pregnant women
- Physicians, nurses, family members, or anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of serious influenza
An annual flu shot is also encouraged for:
- Healthy children 6-23 months, and their household contacts and out-of-home caretakers
- Household contacts and out-of-home caretakers of infants less than 6 months of age
- People who provide essential community services, e.g., police, firemen
- People at high risk for flu complications who travel to the Southern hemisphere between April and September, or who travel to the tropics or in organized tourist groups at any time
- People living in residence halls or under other crowded conditions, to prevent outbreaks
- Anyone who wants to reduce their chance of catching the flu
When should I get influenza vaccine?
Most people need only one flu shot each year to prevent influenza. Children under 9 years old getting flu vaccine for the first time should get 2 flu shots, one month apart.
The best time to get a flu shot is in October or November. But because the flu season typically peaks in January and March, vaccination in December or even later can be beneficial in most years.
Some people should be vaccinated beginning in September*:
- People age 65 years or older
- People at high risk from flu and its complications
- Household contacts of these groups
- Health care workers
- Children between 6 months and 9 years of age getting the flu shot for the first time
What are the risks from influenza vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medication, is capable of causing serious problems, including severe allergic reactions. The risk of a vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small. Serious problems from the flu vaccine are very rare. The viruses in the injectable influenza vaccine have been killed so that you cannot get influenza from a flu shot.
- Soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site
If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.
- Life-threatening allergic reactions are very rare. If they do occur, it is within a few minutes to a few hours after the injection.
- In 1976, swine flu vaccine was associated with a severe paralytic illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Influenza vaccines since then have not been clearly linked to GBS. However, if there is a risk of GBS from the current influenza vaccines, it is estimated at 1 to 2 cases per million persons vaccinated-much less than the risk of severe influenza which can be prevented by the immunization.
What should I look for in the event of a moderate or severe reaction?
Look for any unusual condition, such as:
- High fever
- Behavior changes
- Difficulty breathing
- Hoarseness or wheezing
- Fast heart rate
What should I do if symptoms occur?
- Call a doctor or get the person to the doctor right away.
- Tell your health care provider what you experienced, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given.
- Ask your health care provider or health department to report the reaction by filing a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form or call VAERS yourself at 1-800-822-7967 or visit their website at www.vaers.org.
How can I learn more?
- Ask your health care provider. They will give you a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS), package insert, or suggest other sources of information.
- Contact University Health Services at (989)774-6589 or stop by University Health Services, Foust 200.
- Contact your local health department.
- Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- 1-800-231-2522 (English)
- 1-800-232-0233 (Spanish)
- Visit the National Immunization Program's website at www.cdc.gov/nip.