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It's about that time...my FAQs on the flu vaccine!

How did this happen? I feel like I just had my seasonal flu vaccine but here we are again! The optimal timing to get the flu vaccine is in September or October....and since next week is already September (eeek!) I thought I would post a quick rundown of the questions I get every year. I have embedded hyperlinks for the nerds (like me) who like data:


1.Why are flu shots important?


The flu vaccine prevents sickness, hospitalization, and death. Studies have also demonstrated that flu vaccine can be life-saving in children (here and here).


While some people who get vaccinated still get sick, flu vaccination has been shown to reduce severity of illness and prevent hospitalization.


2. Who needs to take them?


The WHO states that “all people, including the elderly and the vulnerable, benefit from recommended immunizations, including seasonal influenza vaccines, throughout the life-course”. With few exceptions, the guidelines internationally (and from CDC in the US) are that all people above 6 months of age should be vaccinated annually against the flu, and infants younger than 6 months are protected by a vaccine given to the parent during pregnancy.


3. Can taking a flu shot cause you to get the flu?


No, this is a common misconception! There is no live virus in a flu vaccine that can infect you. Flu shots are made using either inactivated viruses or without flu virus at all (in the recombinant vaccines). So, you cannot get flu from a flu shot!


4. Why do we need a flu shot every year?


It’s very important to stay up to date with flu vaccines because the flu is a virus that constantly mutates and changes, and thus your protection from a shot will wane over time. Annual flu vaccines update your protection against the flu viruses likely to be most common in the upcoming flu season.


5. Can people who are pregnant or with chronic conditions get flu shot?


YES, AND YES!


Vaccinating people while pregnant helps protect them from flu illness and hospitalization, and also has been shown to protect the baby from flu infection for several months after birth, before the baby can be vaccinated.


Flu vaccination also is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. For example, flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of cardiac events in people with heart disease, and has been shown to reduce the flu hospitalization rate in people with diabetes.


6. Can the flu shot cause side-effects?


Side effects that may occur after the the flu vaccine are mostly minor and short-term such as soreness, redness and/or swelling where the shot was given, low grade fever, or body aches. These are reactions to your immune system building immunity and is totally normal!

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