The Flu Vaccine

Flu shot (vaccine)

The best way to prevent or lessen the severity of the flu is to get a flu shot each fall.

You cannot get the flu from a seasonal vaccine. Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have received flu shots. If you’re worried about shots, you may take the nasal spray.

Protect Your Children from the Flu: Get Them Vaccinated Each Year

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine. If your child is 6 months to 8 years old and is getting vaccinated for the first time or has been vaccinated previously, he or she may need 2 doses. Ask your doctor whether 2 doses will be needed.

The first dose of the vaccine should be given as soon as it becomes available. This dose "primes" the immune system. The second dose, which provides immune protection, should follow at least 28 days later. If your child needs both doses, be sure to start the process early to ensure he or she is protected before the flu virus starts circulating in your community.

Types of Flu Vaccines

There are 2 types of flu vaccines:

  • The “flu shot” is an inactivated (or killed) vaccine given with a needle, usually in the arm.
  • The nasal flu spray vaccine (also referred to as LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”) is an attenuated (or weakened) vaccine taken via a spray in the nose.

Scientists make a different flu vaccine every year because the strains of influenza viruses change from year to year. Nine to 10 months before the flu season begins, a new vaccine is made from inactivated (killed) influenza viruses. Because the viruses have been killed, they cannot cause infection. The flu vaccine preparation is based on the strains of the flu viruses that are in circulation at the time. It includes those influenza Type A and Type B viruses expected to circulate the following winter.

Sometimes a new strain appears after the vaccine has been made and distributed to doctors’ offices and clinics. As a result, you still may get infected even if you get a flu shot.


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