Influenza / Flu Vaccine

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What you need to know before you receive the vaccine.

About the disease:

Influenza (sometimes called the flu) is a serious disease. Here are a few important facts:

  1. It spreads when influenza viruses pass from an infected person to the nose or throat of others.
  2. Influenza can cause: fever, cough, chills, sore throat, headache, muscle aches.
  3. It can lead to pneumonia and death.
  4. Influenza can make people of any age ill. Although most people are ill for only a few days, some have a much more serious illness and may need to be hospitalized. Thousands of people die each year from infuenza-related illness. Most death caused by influenza are in elderly people.

About the Vaccnine: The vaccine contains killed viruses particles that are the same or similar to those thought to be most likely to come to the U.S. this year.
All viruses in the vaccine are killed so you cannot get influenza from the vaccine.

Who should get the influenza vaccine?

Group #1. People who are at risk for getting a serious case of influenza or a complication should get the vaccine. This includes:

  • All people 65 years of age or older.
  • Residents of long-term care facilities housing and persons of any age with chronic medical conditions.
  • Any child or adult, including pregnant women, who had a serious long-term health problem
  • Heart disease, lung disease, anemia, kidney disease, metabolic disease such as:
    diabetes, asthma etc. AND in the past year had to see a doctor regularly, or be admitted to a hospital
  • People who are less able to fight infections because of :
    A disease they were born with,
    infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV),
    treatment with drug such as long-term steroids,
    cancer treatment with X-rays or drugs.
  • Children and teenagers 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment, who, if they catch influenza, could develop Reye’s syndrome, which causes coma, liver damage, and death.
  • Women who will be more than 3 months pregnant during the influenza season.

Group #2. Anyone who has close contact with people who are at risk for getting a serious case of influenza. This includes:

  • Anyone including children who live with people in high-risk groups. (Group #1)
  • Health care workers (doctors, nurses, hospital and medical office staff).
  • Personnel who work in nursing homes or chronic care facilities.
  • People who provide home-care to high-risk persons, such as visiting nurses and volunteers.

Group #3. In addition, an influenza immunization may be given to:

  • Persons who provide important community services.
  • People in schools and colleges, to prevent outbreaks.
  • People going to the tropics any time of year, or to countries south of the equator between April and September.
  • Anyone who wants to reduce their chance of catching influenza.

When should you receive the influenza vaccine?

People who need the vaccine should get it every year.

The vaccine begins to protect you after 1 to 2 weeks and protection may last up to one year. Influenza is most common in the U.S. from December to April, so it is best to get the vaccine between September and mid November.

People 9 years of age and older need one influenza immunization per season. Children less than 9 years old may need a second immunization after one month.

Influenza vaccine can be given at the same time as any other vaccine, including pneumococcal vaccine. It should be given in a different limb.

Will the vaccine keep you from getting influenza this year?

Because the viruses change often, they may not always be covered by the vaccine. People who do get influenza after receiving the vaccine often have a milder case than those who did not get vaccinated. Also, other viruses cause diseases that seem like influenza, and the influenza vaccine does not protect against these other viral infections.

What are the risks from the influenza vaccine?

As with any medicine, there are very small risks that serious problems, even death, after taking the vaccine. The risks from the vaccine are much smaller than the risks from the disease. Almost all people who get the influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.

If mild or moderate problems occur, they usually start soon after the vaccination, and usually last 1-2 days.

These may include:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Aches

In 1976, Swine Flu Vaccine was linked to a paralytic illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), from which about half of its victims fully recover. Other influenza vaccines have not been clearly linked to GBS. However, in the 5 or 6 years studied since 1976, there may have been a small chance that cases of GBS were linked to influenza vaccine. The chance of getting GBS after influenza vaccine is far less than the chance of getting severe influenza that could have been prevented by the vaccine.

The viruses in the vaccine are killed, so you cannot get influenza from the vaccine.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you:

  • Have a serious allergy to eggs
  • Ever had a serious allergic reaction or other problem after getting influenza vaccine
  • Were ever paralyzed by Guillain-Barre Syndrome
  • Now have a moderate or severe illness

What to do if there is a serious reaction:

A severe allergic reaction could include hives, difficulty breathing, or shock.

  • Call a doctor or get the person to a doctor right away.
  • Tell the Campus Health Service personnel what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given as soon as you are able.

How can I get more Information?

Ask your Doctor or Nurse. They can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other courses of information.

  • Call our local or State Health Department.
  • Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP)
  • Call 1-(800)-232-7468 Visit the CDC website at

This information courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service Centers for Disease Control National Center for Infectious Diseases Atlanta, Georgia 30333