Decision Focus: Flu Shot for Flu Season

Confused about which vaccinations to get this fall? We'll tell you which family members need seasonal flu shots.

By Nancy Reid, Contributing Writer

Flu shots. Some years you've been strict about getting the whole family in for a seasonal flu vaccination (flu shot). Other years, maybe not so much.

Don’t let flu shots slide down your priority list this year. Planning your family's flu shots, including ones for grandma and grandpa, may be one of the most important tasks you do all year.

When should I get the flu shot?
Get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available, which is generally in the early fall. The flu seasons are unpredictable and it takes about two weeks after the flu shot for your body to become fully protected.

Who should get the flu shot?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot each year. Some kids may need two doses of the vaccine for it to work. Kids between 6 months and 8 years old who didn’t receive at least one dose during the 2011-2012 flu season need two doses of the flu shot. The shots are given about 1 month apart.

A higher-dose flu vaccine is available for people over age 65. Talk to your doctor to learn more about this option. The intradermal vaccine is available in some areas for people age 18-64. A nasal-spray flu vaccine is an option for healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Is the H1N1 (swine flu) shot different from the seasonal flu shot?
No. This year, one vaccine will protect you from both H1N1 (swine) and seasonal varieties of flu.

Why should I get the flu vaccine?

Avoiding the seasonal flu may also mean you'll be in overall better health. That will make you better able to fend off disease through the flu season.

Why shouldn't I get vaccinated?
The flu shot is safe for most people. But, if you have a severe allergy to chicken eggs or have had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past, check with your doctor to see if the flu shot is safe for you.

Personal concerns and beliefs
Some people are concerned about vaccine safety. Vaccines, like any medication, can cause side effects, which may occasionally be serious. Other folks may have religious beliefs that conflict with getting vaccinations.

Before you make a decision, weigh the risks and benefits with your doctor. Not getting immunized puts you at risk of getting a disease that could, in rare cases, be fatal. It also raises the risk that you can spread the virus to others who may be at high risk for complications.

Another vaccination to consider
People are at increased risk of getting pneumonia when they get the flu or are otherwise sick. One type of bacterium called pneumococcus can result in pneumococcal pneumonia. A vaccine can guard against this bacterium. The CDC recommends the following people get the appropriate pneumococcal vaccine: