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  • Flu Vaccine Questions and Answers

    Make sure to get a flu shot.

    Everyone 6 months or older should get a flu shot every year. Get one now to protect yourself and your loved ones all season.

    The flu is more than just a bad cold.

    People who get sick with the flu can have fever, cough, sore throat and body aches for several days. Each year, the flu typically kills hundreds of people in Washington and sends thousands more to the hospital. Getting a flu shot can stop you from getting the flu. If you do get sick, your illness will be milder and shorter.

    Circulating flu viruses can change from year to year.

    Flu viruses can change often. Some flu seasons are worse than others, and different viruses affect people differently.

    There is no way to predict how severe a flu season will be. We have seen that COVID-19 prevention measures have lowered the flu’s spread. Wash your hands frequently and stay home if you’re sick.

    Which viruses does flu vaccine protect against?

    For the 2022-2023 flu season, the recommended influenza A(H3N2) and influenza B/Victoria lineage vaccine components are updated from last season. 

    • Egg-based vaccine recommended components:
      • A/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus.
      • A/Darwin/9/2021 (H3N2)-like virus.
      • B/Austria/1359417/2021-like virus – like virus (B/Victoria lineage). 
      • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage). 
    • Cell- or recombinant-based vaccine recommended components:
      • A/Wisconsin/588/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus.
      • A/Darwin/6/2021 (H3N2)-like virus. 
      • B/Austria/1359417/2021-like virus- like virus (B/Victoria lineage). 
      • B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage).

    Learn more on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s flu page.

    Flu Vaccine FAQs

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over age 6 months get a flu vaccine. Babies under age 6 months are too young to get the flu vaccine, and people who have had a serious severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine in the past should not get one. People who have had severe egg allergy or a very rare nervous system condition called Guillian-Barre syndrome should talk to their doctor before they get a flu shot.

    Yes. Each year, vaccines companies make a new vaccine from flu viruses that we expect to be present during the season.

    Most people should get a flu shot by the end of October. This includes pregnant women in the first and second trimester.

    Pregnant women in the third trimester should get flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available—could be as early as July or August—to give themselves and their babies the best protection.

    If you don’t get a flu shot by the end of October, you should get one as soon as you can.

    In general, children younger than 9 years need two doses of flu vaccine the first year they get a flu shot.

    If a child age 6 months to 9 years has not had two doses of flu vaccine in their life, they should get two doses this season. The two doses must be at least 4 weeks apart. They should get the first dose as soon as flu vaccine becomes available so they can get their second dose by the end of October.

    Most people do not have any side effects. If they do happen, they are usually mild. The most common side effects are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot is given. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.

    The effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends on the match between the flu vaccine and the types of flu viruses that are circulating. If there is a good match, the flu vaccine is usually over 60% effective in healthy adults. Flu vaccine is generally somewhat less effective in elderly persons and very young children, but vaccination can still prevent serious complications. The flu vaccine is more effective in healthy people, and it is important for healthy people to receive the flu shot to protect people close to them who may not be healthy.

    Yes, the flu vaccination is very safe. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hold vaccines to the highest safety standards. Flu vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people and have been made the same way for decades. As with all vaccines, flu vaccine testing and safety monitoring are done in multiple phases. For vaccines to be approved, the manufacturing facilities and processes must meet standards to make sure that the vaccines are pure and effective. After vaccines are approved, each batch is tested before it is released to check purity and strength. Several systems are in place to watch for possible side effects after vaccines are given.

    Yes, the nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist) is available this season and is included in the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations.

    Most flu vaccine is made with eggs. Two types of vaccine—cell-based and recombinant—are not made with eggs. People who have had only hives from eggs can get any type of flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for their age and health status. People with more severe allergic reactions to eggs, like wheezing or swelling of the face or throat, can also get any type of flu vaccine. If they get egg-based vaccine, they should be vaccinated by a healthcare provider with experience treating allergic reactions.

    Yes. There are three products approved for people 65 and older, Fluzone High-Dose, FLUAD and Flublok Quadrivalent. If you are 65 or older, CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends these vaccines. They may provide better protection for people 65 or older. 

    Vaccines packaged in multidose vials contain thimerosal, a preservative that protects vaccines against contamination. Thimerosal contains a small amount ethyl mercury. Other than minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site, there is no evidence of harm caused by the small amount of thimerosal in vaccines. Vaccines packaged in single-dose vials and pre-filled syringes are thimerosal-free. They are usually given to children under age 3 and pregnant women because Washington law restricts the amount of thimerosal in vaccines for pregnant women and children under age 3. Most of the flu vaccines licensed by the FDA for use in the United States do not contain thimerosal. 

    In 1976, a type of influenza (swine flu) vaccine was associated with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Since then, flu vaccines have not been clearly linked to GBS. GBS is a rare problem in which a person’s own immune system damages the nerves, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. If there is a risk of GBS from current flu vaccines, it would be no more than one or two cases per million people vaccinated.  This is much lower than the risk of complications and death from influenza. Influenza can also cause GBS. It is not fully known what causes GBS.  About two-thirds of people who get GBS do so after they have been sick with diarrhea or a lung or sinus illness.

    Yes, you can get a flu shot at the same time as other vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccine.