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When Should I Receive a Flu Shot (Influenza Vaccine)

Outline: Information on who and when you should get a influenza vaccine or flu shot including side effects and risks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who are at risk for serious complications from the flu be vaccinated each year. Side effects from the flu vaccine may include: soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given; fever; aches and pains.

Main Digest

Although you can get a flu shot well into flu season, it's best to try to get it earlier rather than later.

In the Northern Hemisphere the flu (Medically referred to as influenza) season generally runs from November to April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March, but the flu, or anti-flu, vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November.

The flu is highly infectious and is a serious viral respiratory infection and every year in the United States, on average:

5% to 20% of the population gets the flu

About 36,000 people die from the flu or its complications.

More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications.

Flu vaccines are routinely available for seasonal influenza, but these vaccines are not likely to be protective against the H1N1 Virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who are at risk for serious complications from the flu be vaccinated each year.

Adults with asthma are at high risk of developing complications after contracting the influenza virus, as respiratory infections like influenza are more serious in patients with asthma, and such infections can often lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.

There are two types of seasonal flu vaccines, the injection (with killed virus) and nasal spray vaccines (containing live, but weakened, virus).

Who SHOULD Receive the Flu Vaccine?

Who Should NOT Get a Flu Shot?

When Should You Get the Yearly Influenza Vaccine?

The viruses that cause influenza change often, and protection declines within a year after vaccination.

People who need the vaccine should get it every year.

The vaccine begins to protect you after 1 to 2 weeks and protection may last up to one year.

What are the Risks from the Influenza Vaccine?

There is a very small risk that serious problems, even death, could occur after taking the vaccine.

The risk from the vaccine is much smaller than the risk from the disease.

Serious problems from the flu vaccine are rare.

Side effects from the flu vaccine may include: soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given; fever; aches and pains.

More information on the Types of Flu Shot Reactions.

How Effective is the Flu Shot?

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine is dependent upon the extent of the match between the virus strains used to prepare the vaccine and those viruses in actual circulation.

The age and health status of the individual also play a role in determining the effectiveness of the vaccine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) often will recommend that certain high-risk groups be given priority when flu shot supplies are limited.

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