A flu shot should be close to the top of the list of your health concerns right now, even with the current pandemic. Flu season is approaching and influenza viruses mutate each year. That’s why it is recommended that everyone 6 months of age or older get an influenza vaccination — a flu shot — every fall. People who have had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine may need to avoid it, but flu vaccines are available for those with weakened immune systems or egg allergies who do not wish to be exposed to even inactive forms of the virus.
Ideally, according to a Patient Page published in JAMA, you should get the flu vaccine before the end of October. But the vaccine is generally available throughout flu season.
A flu shot reduces your chance of becoming sickened by the seasonal viruses that cause influenza. Like the coronavirus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza viruses are spread by the droplets expelled when people cough and sneeze. In the United States, flu viruses are most active from late fall through early spring.
There are three basic types of flu vaccines. Your age and overall health will determine the type of vaccine best for you.
There are three basic types of flu vaccines: inactivated, recombinant and live-attenuated. Your age and overall health will determine the type of vaccine best for you.
Inactivated influenza vaccines are contained in the flu shots given by intramuscular injection at your local drug store. This year, for the upcoming 2020-2021 flu season, they contain inactive components of 4 different influenza viruses and are approved for people aged 6 months or older. People 65 years old and over, however, should get the higher-dose inactivated influenza vaccines. Inactivated influenza vaccines should not be given to children or adults with suppressed immune systems.
Recombinant influenza vaccines, manufactured without influenza viruses or eggs, are available for people aged 18 years or older who have egg allergies or compromised immune systems. People with serious egg allergies may receive the recombinant or live-attenuated influenza vaccine or an inactivated influenza vaccine if they are closely monitored by trained healthcare workers.
The live-attenuated influenza vaccine, given as a nasal spray, is approved for people 2 to 49 years old whose immune systems function normally.
The most frequent side effects from live-attenuated vaccines are nasal congestion, headache and sore throat. The live vaccine should be used with caution in patients with asthma because of possible increased risk of wheeze.
The earlier you are vaccinated, the longer you are protected, and the less likely you are to pass the flu virus on to other members of your family. If you are worried about which influenza vaccine is best for you, contact your healthcare provider. Otherwise, check in at the nearest drug store or clinic offering flu shots as soon as possible.