What is “the flu”?
“Flu” is short for influenza. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a specific strain of viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. They cause productive cough, runny nose, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and malaise, and fever. Severe cases can lead to severe illness and even death. The best way to protect against the flu is by getting an annual flu vaccination.
Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?
Influenza is a serious disease that causes respiratory problems, malaise and fatigue that can lead to hospitalization and in some cases, death. Each year, different strains of influenza virus affect the population and, therefore, the severity and type of symptoms may vary from year to year. Millions of people get the flu every year and hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta estimates that 12,000-56,000 people die from the flu each year. Influenza is highly contagious and poses a greater risk to certain people, including infants and young children, people over 65 years old, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems as well as some other categories. The flu can be spread to others even before you even feel ill.
How do flu vaccines work?
Inactivated influenza vaccines are made from inactivated influenza viruses and trigger the production of antibodies in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against flu infection. Most vaccines are multivalent which means they protect against several different strains of the influenza virus.
Which influenza virus strains are targeted for the current season?
Caltech Student Health Services will be offering an inactivated quadrivalent vaccine for the 2019 flu season. A multivalent vaccine means the vaccine offers protection against different influenza virus subtypes. For more information, check the following website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm
Who should get vaccinated this season?
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine annually. This recommendation has been in place since February 24, 2010, when CDC Advisory Panel on Immunizations voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the United States to expand protection against the flu to more people.
When should I get vaccinated?
The flu season occurs in the fall and winter, but the virus can stay active year-round. Flu vaccination should begin soon after the vaccine becomes available in September, and before December, if possible. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination can be given throughout the flu season, even in January or later. It is never too late to get vaccinated.
Who should NOT get the flu vaccine?
- People who have a severe allergy to eggs (see Special Considerations section below)
- People who have had a severe, life-threatening allergy to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine
- People who have developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine
- People who have a moderate to severe illness or are feeling sick
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
A yearly flu vaccine is needed for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, flu viruses are constantly changing. The formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated to target the flu viruses that are estimated to be prevalent that season. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.
Does flu vaccine work right away?
No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.
Can I get seasonal flu even though I got a flu vaccine this year?
Yes. The flu vaccine effectiveness varies from year-to-year. (see website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectiveness-studies.htm
). In other words, there is a possibility you could get the flu even if you got vaccinated. The ability of flu vaccine to protect a person depends on various factors, including the age and health status of the person being vaccinated, and also the similarity or “match” between the viruses used to make the vaccine and those circulating in the community. If the viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness is higher.
What are the benefits of flu vaccination?
- Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with flu.
- Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults.
- Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
- Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated can also protect a baby after birth from flu, as a mother passes antibodies onto the developing baby during her pregnancy.
- Flu vaccination may make your illness less severe if you do get sick.
- Getting vaccinated also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?
No, a flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines that are administered with a needle are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu vaccine viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccine).
The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.
Some minor side effects that may occur are:
- Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
- Low-grade fever
- Body aches
However, on rare occasions, flu vaccination can cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions or injury from the injection. For more information about the flu vaccine and its side effects, visit: www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm
Where can I get vaccinated?
The campus student flu vaccine clinics are anticipated to be in Hameetman Student Center.
For the Fall of 2019, the tentative dates are:
- October 18, 2019 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
- November 20, 2019 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm
- November 21, 2019 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
All vaccinations at these campus clinics are free. They are given first-come, first-serve until vaccine doses run out. After the last vaccine clinic, any remaining doses will be given at Health Services. Further information will be posted and a broadcast email will be sent. Please call Health Services if you have any questions.
What if I wanted to get the flu vaccine earlier?
Many local pharmacies already have the flu vaccine. Please contact them for information. The vaccine may be covered under your insurance but you will need to confirm with the pharmacy.
What strains will be covered this year?
- A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
- A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus (updated)
- B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus
Is there a delay in the delivery of the flu vaccine this year?
There was a delay in selecting the H3N2 strain this year which has impacted the delivery of the flu vaccine. Different medical facilities and pharmacies received the flu vaccine at different dates.
What if I am allergic to eggs? (Special Considerations Regarding Egg Allergy)
People with mild egg allergies can receive any licensed, recommended, age-appropriate influenza vaccine and no longer have to be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. People who have severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions. Please discuss your egg allergy with a medical provider before receiving the influenza vaccine.
What if I have fainted or get lightheaded when getting shots or blood drawn?
If you have gotten lightheaded or fainted when getting shots or blood drawn or had a reaction to needles, it is best if you get the flu vaccines while lying down. Please let the health care provider know if have had a reaction to shots in the past.
For more information: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/rr/rr6803a1.htm