If you've ever had the flu, you know how sick you can be. Chances are good that some of the advice friends and family gave you about avoiding or dealing with the flu was wrong. There seems to be no shortage of misinformation and bad advice when it comes to dealing with the flu and the flu shot.
Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.
How do flu vaccines work?
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.
What kinds of flu vaccines are available?
CDC recommends use of any licensed, age-appropriate influenza (flu) vaccine during the 2019-2020 influenza season. Options include inactivated influenza vaccine [IIV], recombinant influenza vaccine [RIV], or live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). Different vaccines are licensed for different age groups, and some vaccines are not recommended for some groups of people. But where more than one suitable vaccine is available, no preference is expressed for any influenza flu vaccine over another.
Both trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) flu vaccines will be available for 2019-2020. Most vaccines will be quadrivalent.
Who should get vaccinated this season?
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get an influenza (flu) vaccine every season with rare exception.