Facts about the Flu Vaccine
We all want to protect our families and our community as best we can. That starts with taking care of ourselves and staying healthy. Each year there are new flu viruses -- and a new vaccine to fight them.

Flu vaccine is now recommended for EVERYONE over 6 months. It is one of the most important ways to prevent flu.

What is the flu?
Flu is an upper respiratory illness caused by a virus. Symptoms of flu can include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue. Flu is not the same as a bad cold. It can be dangerous. Flu can cause high fever and pneumonia, and make medical conditions worse.

In the United States, about 36,000 people (mostly over the age of 65) die each year from the flu.

What is the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine contains flu viruses that are grown in a laboratory and then killed (also called "inactivated"). These are made into a vaccine, which can be injected or sprayed in the nose to help protect against the flu. The vaccine is not a treatment for people who already have the flu. Instead, it helps prevent people from getting the flu in the first place. The vaccine builds our body's ability to fight the flu.

Who should get the flu vaccine?
Everyone over 6 months old should get the flu vaccine each year. It is especially important for people who are more likely to get sick, and those who can spread the virus to others. This includes children between 6 months and 5 years old (especially children younger than 2); adults over 65; pregnant women; people with chronic medical conditions including diabetes, asthma, heart disease, cancer, and HIV; people who live in nursing homes; and health care workers. Those who live with or care for children less than 6 months of age should also get the vaccine.

Certain people should talk with a doctor before getting a flu shot. This includes people who have had a severe allergic reaction to eggs or to a previous flu shot; people who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome; or anyone who has a fever.

Can I get the flu vaccine if I have a cold?
Yes, it is okay to get the vaccine if you have a mild illness -- as long as you do not have a fever.

I got a flu vaccine a year* ago. Do I still need another one?
Yes. The flu vaccine changes every year, to protect against new flu viruses that are expected. Last year's vaccine (2012-13) may not protect against this year's viruses.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Your doctor can provide the flu vaccine. Low cost flu vaccines are also available at most pharmacies. The Long Beach Health Department will be providing flu shots by appointment beginning October 10th - please call (562) 570-4315 to set up an appointment. The Department will also be hosting a number of communicty clinics throughout the fall.

What does "seasonal flu vaccine" mean?
There are many different flu viruses. Each year, a new flu vaccine is developed. It is designed to fight 4 flu viruses that scientists expect to be most common that year. This yearly vaccine is also called the "seasonal flu vaccine" or the "annual flu vaccine." "Seasonal" doesn't mean you need to get a flu vaccine every spring, summer, fall, and winter. You only need it once a year.

Can I get the nasal spray vaccine?
Most healthy people ages 2 through 49 can get the flu vaccine by nasal spray -- a quick spray of mist into each nostril. The nasal spray vaccine and the injection work the same way in the body, and both protect you from the flu. Pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions including asthma, heart disease, and certain allergies cannot get the nasal spray vaccine. Ask your doctor about the nasal spray.

Does the flu shot really work?
The flu vaccine works most of the time. Each year's flu vaccine fights the 4 most common flu viruses for that year. If they come in contact with a different flu virus, they could still get the flu. But getting the flu vaccine is always better than not getting it.

How does the flu vaccine work?
The inactive flu viruses in the vaccine trick the body into thinking it is being infected, so the body builds immunity against the flu. Then, if a real flu virus tries to infect that person, their body is ready to fight against it.

Can you still get the flu after you get a flu shot?
Yes, but even if you get the flu, the vaccine can help lessen the symptoms. The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to work.

Can the flu shot cause the flu?
No, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness.

Someone I know didn't feel well after getting the flu vaccine. Why?
Flu vaccines have been given since the 1940's, hundreds of millions of times. Almost all people who get one have no serious problems. Sometimes people get sore at the spot where they get a vaccine. Very rarely, some people get a fever, pain or weakness after getting the flu shot. In both cases, this usually goes away in a day or two.

Can flu vaccine cause severe problems?
A vaccine, like any medicine, may cause serious allergic reactions in very rare cases. Get medical help right away if hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat, or dizziness occur after getting the shot. Also, about 1 person in a million can get an illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) following the flu vaccine.