Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and in some cases even death. The vaccine is the primary means of preventing influenza and its complications, which include pneumonia. Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection from the viruses that are covered in the vaccine.
Complications from the flu occur most commonly in patients over 65. Those under 65 with certain medical conditions, including diabetes and autoimmune disorders, are also susceptible. It is recommended that everyone over 6 months of age be vaccinated but it is especially important in the aforementioned groups.
Flu viruses change from year to year, which, unfortunately, means you can get the flu more than once in your lifetime. The body’s immune response from vaccination also declines over time, so an annual vaccine is necessary for optimal protection. Each season the vaccine is updated to include current viruses. Patients over 65 are recommended to receive the “high-dose” flu vaccine.
The best time to get your flu shot is in late September or early October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, the vaccination is important. The vaccine attempts to match the virus strain and may not be exact. Therefore it is still possible to contract the virus even after receiving the flu shot.
The viruses in most flu shots are inactive so you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. While the risk of side effects is small, some may suffer an allergic reaction. The most common side effects are soreness, redness or swelling at the inoculation site and fever or aches. Make sure to let your doctor know if you have had a severe allergic reaction to eggs or to a flu shot in the past.
The Public Health Department of Santa Clara County provides resources for flu in our community, including health tips for those suffering from flu, and where you can get vaccinated. Learn more about flu resources.
You can also contact your Primary Care physician to find out how you can get your flu shot. Need to find a doctor? We can help. Use our Find a Doctor tool to find someone near you. Or, if you’d like personal assistance, call the El Camino Health Line at 800-216-5556.