We are currently in the midst of flu season, or put another way, in the midst of flu shot season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises, “Flu vaccination should begin soon after the flu vaccine becomes available, and if possible, by October. However, as long as the flu virus is circulating, vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later.” Since we’re smack dab in the midst of flu shot season, let’s explore why it seems like there’s such ambiguity around vaccinations, in this case the benefits of flu shots? Should everyone get a flu shot? Do they always work? Can they make you sick?
To answer these questions, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons regarding this yearly ritual.
The Pros and Cons of Flu Shots
- Sometimes different strains of the flu virus begin spreading simultaneously. You may become infected with a strain of the flu virus that is different from the strain that was in your flu shot. The good news is you can still benefit from the flu shot, and possibly have a less severe case even if you do contract a different strain of the flu.
- A flu shot usually protects you for up to a year, against the strain of the flu virus that was added to the flu vaccine you received.
- Getting the seasonal flu vaccine can cut the risk of becoming infected with the flu by about 50 to 60 percent among the overall population.
- It’s estimated that 71 to 85 percent of flu-related deaths happen to people 65 years and older.
- Between 54 and 70 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occur among people 65 years and older.
- Flu shots do not cause you to become infected with the flu.Flu vaccinations contain dead viruses. The flu virus can live in your body for up to a week before you begin to feel sick. So if you get vaccinated and then feel sick, it’s likely you were already infected.
- There can be several side effects from getting a flu shot, including: aches, low-grade fever, and soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site.
- The intradermal flu shot may cause toughness and itching at the injection site
- It’s very rare, but serious allergic reaction can include: fast heartbeat, breathing problems, hives, dizziness, paleness, or weakness. These symptoms normally occur within a few minutes to a few hours after a flu shot is received.
- There is a small possibility that the flu vaccine may be associated with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (in one to two cases per million).
Who Can Get Flu Shots, Who Can’t, and Who Needs to Talk to their Doctor First
- Children as young as six months of age.
- Pregnant women.
- People with chronic health conditions.
- Children younger than six months of age.
- Those with life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine, or its ingredients. These include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients.
- Those younger than 65 years of age should not get the high-dose flu shot, or the flu shot with adjuvant.
- Those younger than 18 years of age, or older than 64 years of age, should not get the intradermal flu shots.
Talk to Your Doctor First:
- If you have an allergy to eggs.
- If you have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
The above list of people who should not get the flu vaccine notwithstanding, the decision to get yourself vaccinated during flu season is entirely up to you. Even if you are healthy, those around you–your friends, family, and co-workers–may not be. Getting vaccinated helps you, and those around you, from catching and spreading the virus. We simply want to educate everyone on the known pros and cons of the flu vaccine.