Common questions about the flu vaccine

Wondering whether you and your family should be immunized against this year’s flu?

Here are answers to some questions you may have.

Doctor examines 2-year-old boy in mom's arms

Image source: Thinkstock

Influenza is a serious, potentially life-threatening disease that comes around every year — usually between October through May in the U.S.

It causes school and job absences. It also causes emergency room and doctor visits, which can increase the costs of healthcare and decrease revenue for individuals and businesses alike.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Everyone over 6 months of age, especially people with:

  • Chronic lung diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and emphysema
  • Significant heart disease
  • Immunosuppressive disorders or diseases
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • People on long term aspirin therapy
  • People with chronic kidney or metabolic diseases, such as diabetes

Who should NOT get the flu vaccine?

  • Infants less than 6 months of age
  • Anyone who has or had Guillan-Barre syndrome
  •  Anyone who has had a severe reaction to flu vaccination in past

How soon does the influenza vaccine take effect?

It usually takes two to four weeks for the vaccine to give you immunity.

Flu season usually runs from October through May. That is why it is recommended you get the vaccine as early as August or September.

Most people’s immunity lasts about two years.

Why does my child under 9 years of age need two vaccinations when he gets the flu vaccine for the first time?

Children under 9 years of age have a decreased ability to mount a significant immune response to the first vaccination.

The first vaccination introduces the flu to the immune system and the second gives an immune response.

After 9 years of age, this does not seem to be a problem.

I did not get a flu vaccine in the fall. Is it too late?

No. The flu season can last through May so you still need immunity. Plus, the immunity lasts two years so if that strain returns in that time-frame you will be covered.

What is the difference between the flu injection and the flu nasal mist?

Flu vaccine injection

The injection is a dead virus-it cannot give anyone the flu.

Side effects are minimal and include a sore arm, mild fever, achiness that resolve by 2 days

It can be given to anyone(see above for exceptions) that is 6 months old or older.

Flu vaccine nasal mist

The nasal mist is a live but weakened flu virus that is squirted in your nostrils.

It cannot give you the flu.

Side effects are minimal and include a runny nose, headache, sore throat, or fever lasting 1-2 days.

It can only be given to people from 2 years of age up to the age of 50.

Also anyone using bronchodilators for wheezing in preceding 12 months or that is pregnant or has a weakened immune system or is around someone with a weakened immune system or has chronic heart, kidney, metabolic disease or diabetes or is taking long term aspirin should not get the nasal mist.

Can my child get either the injection or the nasal mist?

If your child is over 2 years of age and does not have any of the disorders above then they can get either vaccine.

It is a personal preference at that point.

Influenza can kill and at the very minimum it can be an unpleasant experience that inconveniences your family.

Get immunized!

About the Author

I enjoy children and love to work with them as they grow and mature. The relationships I form between my patients and their families make my career particularly rewarding. I practice medicine democratically, developing a partnership between physician, patient and family. Listening to my patients is my best asset.
Read more about me on my biography page.