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Get to Know the Flu Shot

Published: Oct 18, 2017

By Tampa General Hospital

Nancy Epps, BSN, clinician at Employee Health Services at Tampa General Hospital, tackles some of the most common questions people have about the flu vaccine.

Does the flu vaccine completely protect me from the flu?

Not entirely. Every year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies the efficacy of the flu shot for that particular season. When vaccines match the most common strain of flu, they are between 50 and 60 percent effective.

“The flu viruses themselves are quite pesky,” Epps says. “The different types of flu virus are changing all the time, making previous years’ vaccines ineffective. Therefore, researchers tweak the vaccine each year to try and compensate for any changes the virus undergoes.”

Is there a chance that the flu vaccine will give me the flu?

Absolutely not. The flu vaccine is composed of dead viruses that are no longer capable of spreading. However, some people may feel a little achy or experience a very mild fever for about one or two days after receiving the shot. This reaction is simply the body’s immune system responding to the dead virus in an effort to build immunity.

 Who needs the flu shot?

Everyone older than 6 months of age should get a flu shot annually — especially children and seniors, who are at greater risk of complications from the flu.

“It’s crucial for people to not only think of themselves, but of others as well,” Epps says. “If you’re around babies, children or elderly people on a daily basis, you could be putting them at risk by forgoing the vaccine.”

Is there another way to receive the vaccine without having to have a shot?

While there was a nasal spray option in previous years, studies conducted by the CDC revealed that this option is far less effective than the injections. For this season, the shot’s the only way to go.

 How often do I need the flu shot?

You should have a flu shot every year just before the start of flu season. Generally, that means you should aim to get vaccinated by the end of October, if possible. Also, keep in mind that it may take about two weeks for the flu vaccine to kick in and begin protecting you.

 Do flu shots cost money?

All insurance companies cover flu shots. If you’re uninsured, you can typically get one for around $40.

Is it time for a vaccination?

Go to 4healthier.me/TGMG-Docs to make your appointment.

This story was first published in the fall issue of SHINE magazine. For more stories from SHINE, visit our home page.