Should I Get a Flu Shot?

Every year I hear people discussing the flu shot question. Should I or shouldn’t I get a flu shot?

I get my flu shot every year. As a nurse, I work with sick people every day. I need to get vaccinated to protect myself from contracting the flu and to protect my patients from the possibility of my getting sick and infecting them. This seems to make perfect sense for all health care workers.

But who else should get a flu shot? Let’s start at the beginning.

How do we get the flu?

We can catch the flu from anyone who is infected. The flu virus is transmitted in most cases by droplets through the coughing and sneezing of infected persons, but it can also be transmitted by direct contact.

Direct transmission involves someone with the flu actually touching you. Indirect transmission occurs via contact with contaminated surfaces or inanimate objects such as countertops.

We are exposed to the flu virus all day long, everywhere we go and everyone would benefit from getting a flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the recommendations are as follows:

Who Should Get Vaccinated

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine each year.  The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the U.S. to expand protection against the flu.

While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that the following groups get vaccinated:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than 5 years of age, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu.

When to Get Vaccinated

The CDC recommends that people get their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. Vaccination before December is best since this timing ensures the protective antibodies are in place before flu activity is typically at its highest. The CDC continues to encourage people to get vaccinated throughout the flu season, which can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated

There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
  • People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome

Why wouldn’t you get vaccinated?

Some people believe that you can get the flu from the vaccine. This is simply NOT TRUE!!! The vaccine is a killed virus. It simply cannot infect you. Reactions and complications from the flu vaccine are extremely rare!

The best thing you can do is to first consult with your physician to ensure that you are safe to receive the vaccine. We want you safe and healthy.

~ Melissa V. Sirola, BSN, RN, MBA