Man receives flu shot

It’s Flu Season Again: Stay Protected and Get Your Annual Flu Shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months and older get an annual flu vaccine. Why? Here are five good reasons to roll up your sleeve:

The flu causes millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths each year. Let’s be proactive this fall and protect ourselves and those around us from the flu.

  1. The flu shot protects you. The flu shot is the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications.
    • A flu shot decreases the risk of severe flu illness, which is especially important for people at higher risk for serious complications such as young children, pregnant women, older people and more.
    • A flu shot decreases your chances of going to the ICU for flu.
    • If you end up in the hospital as a result of the flu, a flu shot has been shown to reduce your stay by up to four days.
  1. The flu shot protects others around you. Certain people, such as babies, young children, older people and people with certain chronic health conditions are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, so your vaccination is important for those around you too. For example, children younger than six months are too young to be vaccinated but are at higher risk for serious illness. Parents and caregivers should be vaccinated instead.
  1. The flu shot is safe and effective. There are often misconceptions about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but the flu shot has been safely administered to hundreds of millions of Americans.
    • Recent studies by the CDC show flu shots reduce your risk of flu illness by 40-60%.
    • Most people have no serious side effects from the flu shot. You may notice redness or swelling where the shot was given or minor body aches, a headache or a low fever, but these effects are much less severe than the flu itself.
    • You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The shot is made with inactive, dead or weakened viruses that will not cause illness.
  1. The flu virus changes every year. As we have learned with COVID-19, viruses are constantly changing, and the flu is no different. Flu vaccines are updated each year to protect against the viruses that will be common during the upcoming flu season.
  1. The flu shot can help you keep up this fall. If you have a busy fall schedule, getting vaccinated is a key component to staying healthy. Getting the flu, while unvaccinated, could sideline you for several days or weeks depending on how severe your illness is.

Who Should Get One?

Woman receives flu shotThe CDC recommends everyone six months and older should get a flu shot with rare exceptions. Different flu vaccines are approved for different groups of people, but they are all safe and effective. The CDC offers a description of various flu vaccine options, so talk to your health care provider about which vaccine is best for you.

Some of us are more at risk than others for serious complications from the flu, making it even more important to get a flu shot each year. These groups include:

  • People 65 years of age or older
  • People with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease and other chronic illnesses or conditions
  • Pregnant women
  • Caregivers of infants or family members with health problems
  • Health care personnel who care for people at higher risk for serious complications

For more information on who should get a vaccine and the rare exceptions for who shouldn’t, visit the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Safety Information page.

When Should I Get One?

It’s best to get your flu shot before the flu begins spreading in your community. Experts recommend September and October. However, if you’re not able to get vaccinated until November or even later, you can still get protection. Flu commonly peaks in February and can continue into May.

Where Should I Get One?

If you’re enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, you can get a flu shot at your nearest VA health care facility or from one of the 70,000 community locations that offer no-cost flu shots. Flu vaccines are also available in many other locations, including health departments, pharmacies, urgent care clinics and even schools and workplaces. The CDC offers a vaccine finder tool to help you find the best location for you.

What Else Can I Do to Prevent the Spread of Flu?

Nasal flu vaccine

  • Wash your hands. Do it often, with soap, for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Limit your contact with others if you are sick. The CDC recommends that people stay home for at least 24 hours after fever symptoms go away.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Take care of yourself. You can do this by getting enough sleep and managing your stress levels.

COVID-19 and the Flu

When you get your annual flu shot, talk to your health care provider about what vaccine or booster options are available for COVID-19. Get answers to your COVID-19 vaccine questions, as well as information on how to receive one through VA here. VA’s National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention can help you find convenient flu vaccine locations, answer your questions and much more.

The flu causes millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths each year. Let’s be proactive this fall and protect ourselves and those around us from the flu.

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