How effective is the flu vaccine?


It has become a truism of public health: Another year, another flu vaccination. Since 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that every person 6 months of age or older receive the flu vaccine. 

The flu vaccination is typically available in both injectable and nasal spray forms. In the past, the CDC has encouraged parents to opt for the flu shot whenever possible, due to concerns about the nasal spray form in some recent seasons. However, there is no preference in this year's recommendations.

Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the strains of flu vaccine that researchers expect to be most prevalent during the upcoming season. Flu vaccines are either trivalent or quadrivalent; that is, they are formulated to contain vaccines for three or four flu strains, depending on what strains are forecast to be most active in the upcoming season.

Early prevention remains key for full protection from the flu. To ensure that your child’s vaccination is given before the onset of flu season, physicians are encouraging people to accept the available vaccine not waste time seeking a particular formulation. 

Flu vaccine recommendations

Vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk of contacting the flu:

  • For everyone 6 months and older: Get vaccinated for the flu, each and every year. (To learn more about protecting newborns who are not yet vaccinated, read this.)
  • For children ages 6 months to 8 years old with fewer than 2 doses of flu vaccination ever: Two doses of vaccination should be given. For best protection from the flu, the first dose should be given as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
  • For children with a history of egg allergy, flu vaccination is okay. There is no need for medical observation during the 30 minutes post-vaccine. People with severe egg allergy should have their vaccine given by a health care provider knowledgeable in allergic response.

While the vaccination helps to significantly reduce your child’s risk of contracting the flu, it does not eliminate that risk. Parents should be aware that children younger than 2 years of age are considered at high risk for serious complications if they do get the flu, and the CDC recommends that antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu) be given to young children sick with the flu.

Last updated February 10, 2020

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