Vaccination is the best defense against getting the flu, states the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website, Flu.gov. There are considerations to contemplate before getting vaccinated. Discover all about the flu shot and what your options are before getting yourself or a loved one vaccinated.
Are flu shots safe? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that seasonal flu vaccines have an excellent track record for safety. Hundreds of millions of Americans have received the vaccines over the years. Adverse effects are monitored, the most common being soreness, swelling and redness at the injection site. If you develop a fever after getting a flu shot, call the doctor immediately. Additionally, the large body of scientific evidence on thimerosal (a mercury based preservative in multidose vials of the flu vaccine) finds that the low doses in vaccines are safe. Studies have also shown there is no correlation between thimerosal exposure and autism. If you are concerned about mercury, ask your doctor about getting a vaccine that doesn’t contain thimerosal..
Who should get vaccinated? According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu shot every year. Since the strains of the flu virus change and mutate from year to year, an update annually is necessary to remain fully vaccinated against contracting the flu. High-risk individuals, including those who are immune deficient, health care workers, elderly and very young are especially at risk. If you fall in these categories, you should be vaccinated.
Age-related considerations. Older adults should consider Fluzone High-Dose vaccine. This is a flu shot made up of several flu strains most likely to cause illness in a given season. It contains four times the antigen of a regular flu shot. Aging causes the immune response to be weaker than it used to be. The regular flu shot might not provide enough protection. The high-dose flu shot increases the immune response. Very young children (up to age 2), older adults and immune-compromised individuals should not get the live flu vaccine, which contains a tiny amount of the flu virus. If it's your first time getting the flu shot, you'll need to get a second dose to be properly protected.
Types of flu shots. There are several forms of flu shot available. Some doctors offer more than one type depending upon availability. Flu vaccine brands include Afluria, Agriflu, Fluarix, Flulaval, Fluvirin, Fluzone and FluMist. A complete list, including ingredients, is available at Flu.gov. The government states that for the 2011-2012 flu seasons, there will be thimerosal-free vaccines available under the brand names Medimmune FluMist, GSK Fluarix, CSL Affluria and Novartis Fluvirin.
- Live vaccine. The live vaccine comes in a nasal spray and is approved for those ages 2 to 49, as long as the person is healthy and the doctor says it's OK. Pregnant women should not receive the live vaccine.
- Flu injection. This seasonal vaccine comes in an injectable form and contains the killed form of the flu viruses. There are a few types of injectable flu vaccine. The Fluzone High-Dose is best for the elderly who need an extra boost.
Who should not get the flu shot? If you've had Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), you may be advised not to get the vaccine. Ask your doctor. If you have a severe allergy to eggs or are allergic to the nasal spray vaccine, you also should not get vaccinated for the flu. If you have a moderate to severe illness with fever, wait until you recover to get vaccinated.