Should You Get a Flu Shot?

Many people may think the flu is not a serious disease and that it's just an inconvenient illness, like the common cold. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every year as many as 36,000 people die from the flu. Most of them are older than 65, which is why people in this age group are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot.

Flu season is at its peak in early winter, usually around January. Officials recommend getting a flu shot in October and November. Although there are other ways to reduce your risk of infection, such as washing your hands often, the best methos is to get vaccinated against the disease. While the effectiveness of the vaccine can vary each year depending on the number of flu strains, the vaccine is usually 70 to 90 percent effective.

Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?

According to the CDC, anyone who wants to decrease his or her chances of getting the flu can be vaccinated; however, there are certain adults who should get the vaccine every year.

Who SHOULD get the flu shot:

  • Children aged 6 months through 18 years
  • Pregnant women
  • Adults 50 and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, chronic bronchitis, and HIV
  • People in nursing homes or long-term care facility
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk of flu or flu complications, which  includes public service employees, health care workers, and those caring for children younger than 6 months old

Who SHOULD NOT get the flu shot:

  • People with chicken egg allergies (the virus for the vaccine is grown within an egg)
  • People who have had severe reactions to flu vaccines in the past
  • Children younger than 6 months, as the vaccine is not yet approved for this age group
  • People who have a moderate to severe illness accompanied by a fever

Is the Flu Shot Safe?

Some people incorrectly think they can get the flu from the vaccine. This is not true. In addition, side effects are usually mild, possibly some soreness where the shot was injected. More serious side effects do happen but are rare; only 1 in 4 million, according to the CDC.

For those who don't like getting shots, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a nasal mist vaccine, too.  

Where Can You Get the Flu Shot?

Hospitals and organizations usually begin offering clinics around the end of October, and they continue through the end of the year. Keep in mind that the vaccine takes two weeks to take effect. Your doctor should also have the flu vaccine available in his or her office. To find a flu clinic in your area, follow this link to a locator provided by the American Lung Association:

The flu shot is free to anyone who has Medicare Part B (the type of Medicare that covers doctor's office visits). In addition, most insurances will cover it, and some cities offer clinics where it is available free to anyone.

In 2005, there was a critical shortage with the amount of vaccines available, but that problem has not reoccurred. Since then, manufactures of the vaccine have found more stable methods of making sure enough doses are available.