Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccination

The CDC provides answers to several key questions that patients have about flu vaccines, including why, when, and where they should get them.

The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine each year; although most health care professionals are aware of this, many patients still waver as to whether they need to get a flu shot, and are concerned that the negatives might outweigh the positives.

Share these facts from the CDC with your patients to keep them educated on how to protect themselves and their loved ones from seasonal influenza.

Why should patients get vaccinated?

According to the CDC, the seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against 2009 H1N1, and two other influenza viruses (an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus). The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientists' estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against influenza virus infection develop in the body.

When should patients get vaccinated?

Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September or as soon as vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season, into December, January, and beyond. This is because the timing and duration of influenza seasons vary. While influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time influenza activity peaks in January or later.

Where can patients get vaccinated?

Get vaccinated wherever you see vaccine available in your community. Your doctor's office, a public health clinic, supermarkets, pharmacies, schools, churches, senior centers, and a variety of other places are offering flu vaccine this season. Use this handy "Flu Vaccine Finder" widget to locate places offering flu vaccine near you.

Who needs to get vaccinated?

On February 24, 2010 vaccine experts voted that everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine each year starting with the 2010-2011 influenza season. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for "universal" flu vaccination in the United States to expand protection against the flu to more people.

While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that the following groups get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including: health care workers, household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu, and household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

Who can use the nasal spray flu vaccine?

It should be noted that vaccination with the nasal-spray flu vaccine is always an option for healthy people between the ages of 2-49 years who are not pregnant.

Who should not be vaccinated?

There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
  • Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)

To find a flu clinic in their area, patients can visit the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Locator.

Health care providers can visit the CDC’s page on Seasonal Influenza for information tailored for physicians and nurses.

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