Per the CDC, everyone, with few exceptions, should be getting the flu shot this season. While last year’s vaccine was not a good match for the season, when predicted accurately it can reduce the incidence of flu in the general population by 40-60%.
- Can I get the flu after I’ve been vaccinated? The short answer is yes. The reasons can vary from the vaccine not being a match to the viral strain to how your body’s immune system responds to the vaccine. It is also important to remember that the vaccine does not provide immediate immunity. It can take up to 2 weeks before you form antibodies to fight the flu. This means if you come in contact with the virus during that time, you may get sick.
- Can I get the flu from the flu shot? The current evidence does not support this. The virus you receive is either inactive or just a single gene from the flu virus, as opposed to the full virus so you should not get an infection. Keep in mind that while you should not get the flu from the vaccine, it can still cause side effects that can feel like a mild version of the illness with fever, headache, and body aches- while unpleasant, these are short in duration and significantly less severe than the actual flu.
- What about Guillain-Barre Syndrome? This is a rare condition of ascending muscle weakness that can lead to paralysis. Some evidence disputes a correlation and some evidence supports it but only puts the incidence at 1-2 cases per million vaccines. However, actually getting sick with the flu can also lead to developing Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
- I have an egg allergy, should I get the shot? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is if you have had hives with eggs, you should get the shot. If you had anaphylaxis with eggs, you should get the shot but make sure it is in a facility that is able to handle an emergency situation. OR, and this would probably be less terrifying to someone with a severe egg allergy, you can get a flu shot that does not have any egg protein in it, called Flublok.
- So who shouldn’t get the vaccine? People who have had a severe allergic reaction to previous flu shots, people who are moderately to severely ill (mild, afebrile illness is ok), People who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, less than 6 months old.
For more information you can visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm or make an appointment with your provider to discuss your concerns.