Do You Need the Flu Vaccine?

Do you need the flu vaccine? Learn who needs a flu shot, how long it takes for the shot to work, and the possible side-effects of the flu vaccination.

| November/December 2001

Do you need the flu vaccine? Learn about the pros and cons of the flu vaccination.

Do You Need the Flu Vaccine?

Conventional preventive treatment lies in vaccinating against influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend vaccination for people at a high risk for complications. Each year, researchers include in the vaccine the strains of influenza that are most likely to strike. Although about 25 percent of people report soreness at the injection site, severe reactions to these vaccines are rare. A vaccine that is given as an intranasal spray is nearing approval in the United States. Several studies involving children and adults show that it’s safe and effective. The main side effect is mild cold-like symptoms in 10 to 15 percent of recipients.

Because a full immune response to the vaccine takes two to four weeks to develop, the ideal time to get a flu vaccine is mid-October to mid-November. In the Northern Hemisphere, flu season usually lasts from December to March.

Should You Get a Flu Shot?

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend influenza vaccination for the following groups:

• People age fifty and older
• Residents of long-term care facilities
• Women who will be in their second or third trimester of pregnancy during the flu season
• Those with serious chronic conditions, particularly conditions involving the heart and lungs
• People with suppressed immune systems
• People who can transmit influenza to others at high risk (such as health-care personnel)

Linda B. White, M.D. is coauthor of  Kids, Herbs, & Health (Interweave, 1998) and The Herbal Drugstore (Rodale, 2000).

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