The Importance of Flu Shots

Did you know that only 43% of adults 18 or older got their flu shot during the 2016-2017 flu season? 1

Why Does Getting a Flu Shot Matter?

Every year, thousands of adults in the United States experience health problems and are hospitalized due to diseases that can be prevented by vaccines, including seasonal influenza viruses.  Anyone who has not been vaccinated against the flu is susceptible to getting it.  The flu can cause many complications—pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, bronchitis—and possibly make other chronic medical conditions even worse.

Getting a seasonal flu shot each year helps to protect you and your loved ones from the flu.

Who is at Risk?

Anyone can get the flu, but some people have a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu than others. It is especially important for high-risk individuals to get the flu vaccine. High-risk individuals include:

  • 65 years old or over
  • 5 years old or under
  • Pregnant women
  • Has a weakened immune system
  • Lives in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • Has certain long-term medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Every Year People Who get a Flu Shot Still get the Flu. What’s the Deal?

Each year the flu shot is made based on predictions of what flu strains will be the most common for that year’s flu season. Last flu season, there were “mismatched” flu strains going around, meaning that they didn’t match what the flu shot was protecting against.  It is still important to get your flu shot each year to protect against the predicted strains, despite the potential of getting a ‘wrong’ vaccine (a vaccine that works against a different strain).

When Should you get the Flu Shot, and Who can get it?

Flu season generally starts shortly after the end of October and can last until May, so it is recommended that you get your flu shot by the end of October.  It isn’t a big deal if you get the flu shot later though, as flu shots given in December are still considered effective.  Your body takes about 2 weeks after receiving the shot to fully develop flu antibodies*, so it is important to give your body time to build up immunity before flu season starts.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone older than 6 months get the seasonal influenza vaccine.  Here at Oswald’s, our pharmacists can administer the vaccine to anyone who is 10 years and older. We recommend everyone age 10 and older get the flu shot every year. A high-dose formula recommended for people aged 65 and up is also available.

Allergies and the Flu Shot

In the past, there has been concern about whether people with egg allergies can get the flu shot.  Most flu shots are made using an egg-based technology, meaning they contain small amounts of egg proteins.  The CDC recommends that anyone with an allergy to eggs of any severity should still get the flu shot. This includes anyone who has experienced an upset stomach to eggs or even had to use an Epi-Pen (or had anaphylaxis) when they had eggs.  A recent study conducted by the CDC found that the rate of anaphylaxis* was only 1.31 per 1 million vaccines!2 The only people who should not get a flu shot are those who have had already experienced anaphylaxis after a flu shot or those who have Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

What to Expect After Getting Your Flu Shot

As with most vaccines, you can expect to have a bit of soreness in your arm after getting the shot.  Moving your arm around after getting the vaccine can help prevent soreness associated with shots.  You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever to help with any soreness or swelling. Try not to rub the shot area; doing so may make the vaccine spread out in the body too quickly, actually making it less effective!

You may hear us say that the flu shot can cause flu-like symptoms as side effects without actually causing the flu. These symptoms include headache, low-grade fever, nausea, and muscle aches. These are generally mild and will go away on their own in a few days. If you are concerned about some side effects, feel free to call one of our pharmacists.

Call us today or just stop in to get your flu shot out of the way!

*antibodies: a small, Y-shaped protein that recognizes foreign material – such as viruses like the flu – and helps the body fight them off by binding to it.

*anaphylaxis: a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, where blood pressure drops, and airways narrow, making it difficult to breathe.

  1. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2016-2017.
  2. Centers for Disease Control Website.
Written by Hannah, PharmD

Hannah started working for Oswald’s Pharmacy in 2018. Hannah is a pharmacist focusing on service and pharmacy innovation.