Current Edition Date: 8/19/2014
Influenza ("flu") is a contagious disease that spreads around the United States every winter, usually between October and May.
Flu is caused by influenza viruses, and is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close contact.
Anyone can get flu, but the risk of getting flu is highest among children. Symptoms come on suddenly and may last several days. They can include:
Flu can make some people much sicker than others. These people include young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions â€“ such as heart, lung or kidney disease, nervous system disorders, or a weakened immune system. Flu vaccination is especially important for these people, and anyone in close contact with them.
Flu can also lead to pneumonia, and make existing medical conditions worse. It can cause diarrhea and seizures in children.
Each year thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.
Flu vaccine is the best protection against flu and its complications. Flu vaccine also helps prevent spreading flu from person to person.
You are getting an injectable flu vaccine, which is either an "inactivated" or "recombinant" vaccine. These vaccines do not contain any live influenza virus. They are given by injection with a needle, and often called the "flu shot."
A different, live, attenuated (weakened) influenza vaccine is sprayed into the nostrils. This vaccine is described in a separate Vaccine Information Statement.
Flu vaccination is recommended every year. Some children 6 months through 8 years of age might need two doses during one year.
Flu viruses are always changing. Each yearâ€™s flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four viruses that are likely to cause disease that year. Flu vaccine cannot prevent all cases of flu, but it is the best defense against the disease.
It takes about 2 weeks for protection to develop after the vaccination, and protection lasts several months to a year.
Some illnesses that are not caused by influenza virus are often mistaken for flu. Flu vaccine will not prevent these illnesses. It can only prevent influenza.
Some inactivated flu vaccine contains a very small amount of a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Studies have shown that thimerosal in vaccines is not harmful, but flu vaccines that do not contain a preservative are available.
Tell the person who gives you the vaccine:
With a vaccine, like any medicine, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own.
Problems that could happen after any vaccine:
Mild problems following inactivated flu vaccine:
If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1 or 2 days.
Moderate problems following inactivated flu vaccine:
Inactivated flu vaccine does not contain live flu virus, so you cannot get the flu from this vaccine.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit the vaccine safety web site.
What should I look for?
Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
What should I do?
VAERS does not give medical advice..
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website. There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.
Vaccine Information Statement
Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (8/19/2014)
42 U.S.C. Â§ 300aa-26