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Vaccine: Flu Shot Necessary?

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Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

I'm a healthy 46-year-old female who has never gotten a flu shot before. My 77-year-old mother plans to get a flu shot and suggested that I get one, too. If I get a flu shot will I not get the flu?


Thinking about it

Dear Thinking about it,

At age 46 and healthy, you are not considered to be in one of the high risk groups to receive a flu vaccination by shot or nasal spray. However, you can still get a flu vaccination if desired. There are many strains of influenza viruses and the vaccine will provide protection against only three types.

To highlight the importance of flu vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2009) designates the second week of December as National Influenza Vaccination Week.

The Centers for Disease Control at provides the following information about the influenza (flu) vaccine:

Two Types of Vaccines

1. Flu Shot: an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) given with a needle for ages 6 months and older.

2. Nasal-Spray Flu Vaccine: made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu, for ages 2-49 years who are not pregnant.

Each vaccine contains three influenza viruses: one A (H3N2) virus, one A (H1N1) virus, and one B virus. The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on international surveillance and scientist's estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year.

About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against influenza virus infection develop in the body.

When to Get Vaccinated

September and into December, January and beyond. Flu season can begin as early as October and peaks in January.

Who Should Get Vaccinated

In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. However, certain people should get vaccinated each year. They are either people who are at high risk of having serious flu complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious complications.

People who should get vaccinated each year are:

1. Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday

2. Pregnant women

3. People 50 years of age and older

4. People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions

5. People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

6. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:

a. Health care workers

b. Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu

c. Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated

There are some people who should not be vaccinated without first consulting a physician.

1. People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.

2. People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past.

3. People who developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously.

4. Influenza vaccine is not approved for use in children less than 6 months of age.

5. People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen.

For more information about influenza vaccines, see