Vaccination is the surest way to protect against getting the flu. Get your flu shot every year to protect yourself and help keep the flu from spreading to others.
Who should get a flu shot?
Everyone age 6 months and older who wants to reduce the risk of getting sick should get a flu shot.
Those more at risk of illness and complications from the flu include:
- People age 65 and older
- People with health problems such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease and other chronic illnesses or conditions
- Pregnant women
- Caregivers of infants or family members with health problems
Why do I need a flu shot every year?
Flu viruses can change over time, so every year the flu shot vaccine is updated to protect against 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.
Where can I get a flu shot?
More convenient to go to a local Walgreens? Veterans enrolled in VA health care can get a flu shot at Walgreens, and the information will be automatically added to their VA health record. Learn more about VA's partnership with Walgreens.
Can my family get flu shots from VA?
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 Flu.gov.
When is the best time to get a flu shot?
Get a flu shot in the fall as soon as it's available, so you are protected the entire flu season. 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 check vaccine availability.
How long does it take before I am protected?
After you get a 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 only inactive (dead) flu virus is used to make the flu shot vaccine.
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.
- 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 vaccine does not match all 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. (CDC does not recommend use of this vaccine during the 2016-17 season)
- 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, a headache, or a low fever that lasts a day or two.
The Health and Medicine Division (formally known as the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and 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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