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Vaccination is the surest way to protect against getting the flu. The flu can become more than just a feverish, achy condition that lasts a few days. Hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. are hospitalized every year with complications from influenza.

Get your flu shot every year to protect yourself and help keep the flu from spreading to others.

Who should get a flu shot?

All people age 6 months and older who want to reduce their risk of getting sick should get a flu shot. Those more at risk of illness and complications from the flu include:

  • People with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease
  • People older than age 50
  • Pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant
  • Caregivers of infants or a family member with health problems
  • Health care personnel

Why is the flu shot needed every year?

Flu viruses can change over time so every year the flu shot is updated to contain the flu viruses most likely to spread that year. The viruses may change after the flu shot is made. Even if this happens, you will still get some protection from the flu shot.

Can I and my family get our flu shots from VA?

Veterans enrolled in VA health care and VA staff may get a flu shot at their nearest VA health care facility. If you are not enrolled in VA health care, find out it you qualify.

VA doesn't vaccinate family members of Veterans or VA staff. If they would like to get a flu shot, check the flu shot locator on

When is the best time to get a flu shot?

You should get a flu shot as soon as it becomes available in the fall so you are protected all winter. You will need to get a new flu shot every year to protect yourself from the flu viruses circulating that season.

Contact your nearest VA health care facility to learn more about vaccine availability.

How long does it take before I am protected?

After you get the flu shot, it takes about 2 weeks for your body to make enough antibodies to protect you against flu.

Antibodies are proteins produced by your immune system that identify and help remove foreign targets such as viruses and bacteria. The flu shot helps your body build these antibodies to fight flu viruses and prevent you from getting sick.

Can I get the flu from a flu shot?

This is a common misconception. You cannot get the flu from a flu shot because it contains strains of non-living flu viruses.

If you get the flu soon after getting a flu shot this could mean you were exposed to the flu virus before the flu shot took effect. Other reasons include:

  • You have a weak immune system or other illness that causes your body to take longer to make antibodies and build immunity.
  • Your body fails to make antibodies after getting a flu shot.
  • The flu shot does not contain the flu viruses that are currently spreading.

What flu vaccines have been approved in the U.S.?

  • Standard-dose (flu shot): fights against 3 or 4 different strains of flu virus
  • High-dose (flu shot): for those age 65 and older, fights against 3 different strains of flu virus
  • Intradermal (tiny needle used under skin): fights against 3 different strains of flu virus
  • FluMist (nasal spray): contains live flu virus that fights against 4 different strains of flu virus
  • Cell-culture based (flu shot): vaccine from non-egg production methods
  • Recombinant (flu shot): vaccine from non-egg production methods

The flu vaccine can be tolerated by people with egg allergies that are not severe. Check with your health care provider if you have a severe egg allergy. Some flu vaccine contains egg protein.

Is the flu shot safe?

Yes, the flu shot is both safe and effective. Most people have no serious side effects or allergic reaction to it.

Some people may have redness or swelling on their arm where the shot was given. A very small number of people may get minor body aches, headache, or a low-grade fever that lasts a day or two.

The Institute of Medicine reviewed more than 1,000 research articles and concluded that few health problems are associated with vaccines. Learn more about these findings.

What else can I do to slow the spread of flu?

Take these simple precautions:

  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Clean hands often.
  • Keep hands away from your face.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

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Infection: Don’t Pass It On – Know what to do about the flu.


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