Unlike vaccines for other conditions, there is not a universal flu vaccine that provides lifelong immunity against all strains and subtypes of the flu. Part of the difficulty in creating a universal flu vaccine is the fact that the flu virus mutates very quickly. This means that last year’s vaccine may not be effective against this year’s virus. The vaccine is modified each year to include the specific strains of the influenza virus that are anticipated to be the most prevalent that year. The antibodies created by the vaccine also decrease with time, so the protection offered by the shot you got last fall will not be as strong this fall.
A flu shot works by using inactive or weakened versions of the virus to stimulate the body’s immune system into producing proteins called antibodies. If you are later exposed to the flu virus, these antibodies will recognize the virus and start to fight it. The vaccine itself cannot give you the flu. It is possible, however, to develop flu-like symptoms after getting a flu shot for one of the following reasons:
Starting each February, the World Health Organization determines which versions of the flu virus are most likely to circulate over the following winter. Production of the vaccine normally starts in March. Most years, the vaccine will include two strains of the type A influenza virus and one or two strains of the type B influenza virus. The type A virus is the most serious and is largely responsible for widespread outbreaks. The type B virus is typically less severe and tends to cause smaller outbreaks. The exact ingredients in the vaccine can vary based on the type of vaccine and the manufacturer. If you have concerns about any possible vaccine ingredients, you should discuss your concerns with your MD Now provider before getting the vaccination. You should also let your provider know if you have an egg allergy or if you have had an allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past.
In addition to the standard flu vaccine, the vaccine also comes in a nasal spray, formulations designed to protect against more strains of influenza or to theoretically produce a stronger immune response, and formulations produced without egg protein. Your MD Now provider can help you choose the right vaccine for your needs.
Older adults are at high risk for serious flu-related complications. They also tend to have less-robust immune systems, so an older adult may not receive the same level of protection from the standard flu vaccine as a younger adult. The high-dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted vaccine are specifically licensed for adults over the age of 65 and are formulated to create a stronger immune response.
The flu vaccine is safe and recommended for pregnant women. Getting a flu shot during pregnancy can help protect you and your baby in several ways:
According to the CDC, the influenza vaccine can significantly reduce a child’s risk of experiencing life-threatening complications from the flu. The flu shot is safe for children 6 months of age and older. Depending on the situation, children between 6 months and 8 years old may need two doses of the vaccine given a month apart to be fully protected. An MD Now provider can help you determine the most appropriate flu vaccine and number of vaccinations for your child.
Since it does take a couple of weeks for a flu shot to work, it is best to get the shot before the flu becomes widespread in your area. We recommend visiting your local MD Now flu shot clinic by the end of September; however, getting vaccinated late may still offer some protection and is better than not getting vaccinated at all.
Make sure that you and your family are protected from the flu this flu season by stopping by your nearest MD Now clinic today to get your flu vaccination. We are open seven days a week, and you never need an appointment.
The content provided on the MD Now website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for receiving medical care and treatment from a qualified healthcare provider. Never delay seeking advice, evaluation, and treatment from a medical professional because of what you’ve read on this site, since the information provided may not apply to you or your symptoms.