The following excerpt from the Berkeley Science Review was used with permission from the author, Eric Lee, PhD.
"Every year, millions of Americans dutifully line up at their local pharmacy to receive their annual flu vaccine. In contrast to many diseases, the flu gets its own season and countless public health warnings on local television or via targeted advertisements. What makes the flu so special, and why is it the only disease that we have to get vaccinated against every year? After all, the flu is not the deadliest disease, nor the most common, and yet the flu vaccine asks millions of Americans to confront their fear of needles every year...
To understand the challenges of vaccinating against influenza, it’s important to know that the flu isn’t just a particularly severe cold. Many different viruses can cause what we call the common cold. However, the flu is caused by a specific pathogen called influenza virus. When someone gets sick from the flu, their infection has progressed far enough to experience disease symptoms. In other words, you can get infected with influenza without actually getting the flu, which has important consequences for how public health officials design responses to the disease. Mild symptoms of the flu can be similar to the common cold, but more severe infections can have serious health effects and kills tens of thousands of people every year." (Read more)
Who should get the flu shot?
Everyone over six months old should get a flu shot, except for very rare exceptions (including children younger than six months, people who are allergic to any ingredient in the vaccine, or people with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome).
Early season vaccination is especially important for those who are at high risk for complications from the flu, including adults age 65 or older, adults who live in nursing homes and other long term care communities, people with asthma and lung disorders, children under two, and pregnant women. So, if someone you know lives in close quarters with others -- like a retirement community or a skilled nursing facility -- it's important for them to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible!
One time I got the flu shot and then I still got sick!
The flu shot cannot give you the flu. However, there are many strains of influenza every year, and the flu vaccine does not provide protection from all of them. It is possible to get sick with a different kind of influenza that may not have been included in the flu vaccine. Still, the flu vaccine can provide some protection, and you may not get as sick as you would have if you hadn't gotten the flu shot.
Where can I get the flu shot?
- Local pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, etc) and Costco
- Your doctor's office
- Flu clinics
When should I get the flu shot?
The flu shot is available now!
The CDC also has information about the flu shot if you have additional questions.