Flu Shot Season: 5 Common Questions Answered

Michael Poirier, PharmD

Each summer, new influenza (flu) shots are released to offer protection from the flu. Getting vaccinated is important not only because it can help you avoid the flu, but it can also protect your loved ones. Particular groups, like the elderly and newborns, cannot fight off the virus as well as others. Here are some answers to common questions about the flu shot.

Who should get a flu shot?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone six months and older should get a flu shot each flu season.

Why are flu shots important?

Vaccination against influenza is particularly important for people who are at an elevated risk of serious complications from the flu:

  • The elderly
  • Children under the age of five
  • Pregnant women
  • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • People with asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and kidney, metabolic, or endocrine disorders (diabetes)
  • Anyone at an increased risk of serious complications

Can a flu shot make you sick?

No. Flu vaccines are either inactivated, meaning they’re not infectious, or they’re recombinant, which means they lack a flu virus at all.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

The CDC conducts studies each year to determine how well the vaccine protects against the flu. While vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show that the vaccine reduces the risk of illness by about 50 to 60 percent.

What other vaccines should I get?

It’s important to talk to your health care provider to ensure you’re fully protected against all vaccine-preventable diseases. Those include:

  • A shingles vaccine at age 60, although it is approved for use beginning at age 50
  • A pneumonia vaccine at age 65 or earlier, if indicated

This list from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a complete vaccination schedule.

If you have further questions or concerns about the flu shot, speak with your primary care provider.

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