Immunizations, or vaccines as they're also known, safely and effectively use a small amount of a weakened or killed virus or bacteria or bits of lab-made protein that imitate the virus in order to prevent infection by that same virus or bacteria.
When you get an immunization, you're injected with a weakened form of (or a fragment of) a disease. This triggers your body's immune response, causing it to either produce antibodies to that particular ailment or induce other processes that enhance...
It is caused by the influenza virus, which can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or nasal secretions. Other illnesses can have the same symptoms and are often mistaken for influenza. But only an illness caused by the influenza virus is really influenza.
Anyone can get influenza, but rates of infection are highest among children. For most people, it lasts only a few days.
Some people get much sicker. Influenza can lead to pneumonia and can be dangerous for people with heart or breathing conditions. It can cause high fever, diarrhea and seizures in children. On average, 226,000 people are hospitalized every year because of influenza and 36,000 die - mostly elderly.
Inactivated (killed) vaccine, or the “flu shot” is given by injection into the muscle.
Live, attenuated (weakened) influenza vaccine is sprayed into the nostrils. This vaccine is described in a separate Vaccine Information Statement.
Influenza viruses are always changing. Because of this, influenza vaccines are updated every year, and an annual vaccination is recommended.
Each year scientists try to match the viruses in the vaccine to those most likely to cause flu that year. When there is a close match the vaccine protects most people from serious influenza related illness. But even when the there is not a close match, the vaccine provides some protection. Influenza vaccine will not prevent “influenza-like” illnesses caused by other viruses.
It takes up to 2 weeks for protection to develop after the shot. Protection lasts up to a year.
Some inactivated influenza vaccine contains a preservative called thimerosal. Some people have suggested that thimerosal may be related to developmental problems in children. In 2004 the Institute of Medicine reviewed many studies looking into this theory and concluded that there is no evidence of such a relationship. Thimerosal-free influenza vaccine is available.
3. Who should get inactivated influenza vaccine?
All children 6 months and older and all older adults:
All children from 6 months through 18 years of age.
Anyone 50 years of age or older.
Anyone who is at risk of complications from influenza, or more likely to require medical care:
Women who will be pregnant during influenza season.