Flu Shot FAQs

Information for 2017-2018 Flu Season

from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.

The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications. 


When should I get vaccinated?

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu, so make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins.

CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial.

Children who need two doses of vaccine to be protected should start the vaccination process sooner, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.


Where can I get a flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even by some schools.

Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, like a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and often your school, college health center, or work.


Can I get a flu vaccine if I am allergic to eggs?

The recommendations for people with egg allergies are the same as last season.

  • People who have experienced only hives after exposure to egg can get any licensed flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for their age and health.
  • People who have symptoms other than hives after exposure to eggs, such as angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness, or recurrent emesis; or who have needed epinephrine or another emergency medical intervention, also can get any licensed flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for their age and health, but the vaccine should be given in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions. 

What sort of flu season is expected this year?

It’s not possible to predict what this flu season will be like. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one year to another.


When will flu activity begin and when will it peak?

The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season.

Seasonal flu viruses can be detected year-round; however, seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and November and can continue to occur as late as May.

Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.


What should I do to protect myself from flu this season?

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.

In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs.

If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others. In addition, there are prescription medications called antiviral drugs that can be used to treat influenza illness. 


What should I do to protect my loved ones from flu this season?

Encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated.

Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for developing flu complications (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm), and their close contacts.

Also, if you have a loved one who is at high risk of flu complications and they develop flu symptoms, encourage them to get a medical evaluation for possible treatment with flu antiviral drugs. These drugs work best if given within 48 hours of when symptoms start.


Do some children require two doses of flu vaccine?

Yes. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age will require two doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection from flu.

Children in this age group who are getting vaccinated for the first time will need two doses of flu vaccine, spaced at least 28 days apart.

Children who have only received one dose in their lifetime also need two doses.

Your child’s doctor or other health care professional can tell you if your child needs two doses of flu vaccine. Visit Children, the Flu, and the Flu Vaccine for more information.


What can I do to protect children who are too young to get vaccinated?

Children younger than 6 months old are at high risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. Because of this, safeguarding them from flu is especially important.

If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months old, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu. 

Everyone else who is around the baby also should be vaccinated.

Also, studies have shown that flu vaccination of the mother during pregnancy can protect the baby after birth from flu infection for several months.

In addition to getting vaccinated, you and your loved ones can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.


My child usually gets the nasal spray vaccine. Can I skip getting them vaccinated since nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended?

It is really important that you still get your child vaccinated against influenza this season. Influenza can be a serious illness for children and children (especially school-aged children) are more likely to get sick with flu.

Once infected, children then spread flu to others. A flu shot can keep your child from getting sick with flu. Vaccinating your child also protects people around them (like grandparents, babies or anyone with long-term health problems) who are more vulnerable to flu. The nasal spray flu vaccine (trade name FluMist®) is not recommended this season because of concerns that it may not work well. 


How long does a flu vaccine protect me from getting the flu?

When most healthy people with regular immune systems are vaccinated, their bodies produce antibodies and they are protected throughout the flu season, even as antibody levels decline over time.

Older people and others with weakened immune systems may not generate the same amount of antibodies after vaccination; further, their antibody levels may drop more quickly when compared to young, healthy people.

Getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against the flu throughout flu season. It’s important to get a flu vaccine every season, even if you got vaccinated the season before and the viruses in the flu vaccine have not changed for the current season.


Can I get vaccinated and still get the flu?

Yes. It’s possible to get sick with the flu even if you have been vaccinated (although you won’t know for sure unless you get a flu test).

This is possible for the following reasons:

  • You may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in you becoming ill with flu before the vaccine begins to protect you. (About 2 weeks after vaccination antibodies that provide protection develop in the body.
  • You may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. There are many different flu viruses that circulate every year. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses that research suggests will be most common
  • Unfortunately, some people can become infected with a flu virus the flu vaccine is designed to protect against, despite getting vaccinated. Protection provided by flu vaccination can vary widely, based in part on health and age factors of the person getting vaccinated. In general, the flu vaccine works best among healthy younger adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses may develop less immunity after vaccination. Flu vaccination is not a perfect tool, but it is the best way to protect against flu infection.

What should I do if I get sick with the flu?

Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.

If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician assistant, etc.). There are drugs your doctor may prescribe for treating the flu called “antivirals.” These drugs can make you better faster and also may prevent serious complications.

Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still be beneficial when given later in the course of illness.