Hunterdon County Health Department
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE INFLUENZA VACCINE
1. Why Get Vaccinated?
Influenza is a serious disease. It is caused by a virus that spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat of others.
Influenza can cause:
- sore throat
- muscle aches
People of any age can get influenza. Most people are ill with influenza for only a few days, but some get much sicker and may need to be hospitalized. Influenza causes thousands of deaths each year, mostly among the elderly.
2. Influenza Vaccine:
The viruses that cause influenza change often. Because of this, influenza vaccine is updated each year by replacing at least one of the vaccine viruses with a newer one. This is done to make sure that influenza vaccine is as up-to-date as possible.
Protection develops about 2 weeks after the shot and may last up to a year. Some people who get flu vaccine may still get the flu, but they will usually get a milder case. Flu vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines, including pneumococcal vaccine.
3. Who Should Get Influenza Vaccine?
People 6 months of age and older at risk for getting a serious case of influenza or influenza complications and people in close contact with them (including all household members) should get an annual the vaccine.
An annual flu shot is recommended for:
- Everyone 50 years of age or older.
- Residents of long term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions.
- Anyone who has a serious long-term health problem with:
- heart disease
- lung disease
- kidney disease
- metabolic disease, such as diabetes, anemia and other blood disorders
- Anyone with a weakened immune system due to:
- HIV/AIDS or other diseases that affect the immune system.
- Long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids
- Cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs
- Anyone 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment (who could develop Reye Syndrome if they catch influenza).
- Pregnant women who will be past the 3rd month of pregnancy during the flu season (usually November-March, but past March in some years).
- Physicians, nurses, family members, or anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of serious influenza
- An annual flu shot is also encouraged for:
- Healthy children 6-23 months of age and their household contacts and out-of-home caretakers.
- Household contacts and out-of-home caretakers of infants less than 6 months of age.
- People who provide essential community service.
- Travelers to the Southern hemisphere between April and September, or those traveling to the tropics at any time.
- People living in dormitories or under other crowded conditions, to prevent outbreaks.
- Anyone who wants to reduce his or her chance of catching influenza.
4. When Should I Get the Influenza Vaccine?
The best time to get a flu shot is in October or November. Most people need only one flu shot each year to prevent influenza. Children under 9 years old getting flu vaccine for the first time should get 2 shots, one month apart. Influenza vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines, including pneumococcal vaccine.
Some people should be vaccinated beginning in September or October: people 65 years of age and older, people at high risk from flu and its complications, household contacts of these groups, health care workers, and children under 9 getting the flu shot for the first time. To make sure these people have access to available vaccine, others should wait until November.
5. Some People Should Consult With a Doctor Before Getting Influenza Vaccine.
Consult with a doctor before getting an influenza vaccination if you:
- ever had a serous allergic reaction to eggs or a previous dose of influenza vaccine; or
- have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).
If you are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled, you should usually wait until you recover before getting the influenza vaccine. Talk to your doctor or nurse about rescheduling the vaccination.
6. What are the Risks from the Vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small. Almost all people who get influenza vaccine have no serious problems with it. The viruses in the vaccine are killed, so you cannot get influenza from the vaccine.
- soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given.
If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.
Life-threatening allergic reactions are very rare. If they do occur, it is within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot.
In 1976, swine flu vaccine was associated with a severe paralytic illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)> Influenza vaccines since then have not been clearly linked to GBS. However, if there is a risk of GBS from current influenza vaccines it is estimated at 1 or 2 cases per million persons vaccinated - much less than the risk of severe influenza, which can be prevented by vaccination.
7. What if there is a Moderate or Severe Reaction?
- What should I look for?
- Any unusual condition, such as a high fever or behavior changes. Sings of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness of wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat or dizziness.
- What Should I do?
- Call a doctor, or get the person to a doctor right away.
- Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given.
- Ask your doctor, nurse, or health department to file a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form or you can call VAERS at 1-800-822-7967.
8. How Can I Learn More?
Other sources of information:
- Contact your doctor or nurse.
- Contact the Hunterdon County Public Health Nursing and Education Office at 908-806-4570.
- Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 1-800-232-2522 (English) or 1-800-232-0233 (Espanol)
- Visit the National Immunization Program's web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/nip
- Key Facts About Influenza: from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Adopted from the
"Influenza Fact Sheet"
from the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta Georgia
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