VDH and CDC recommend yearly influenza vaccination as the first and most important step in protecting yourself and your loved ones from influenza illness. Annual seasonal flu vaccination with either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get the flu and lessen the chance that you will spread it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu illness can spread through the community.
All people 6 months of age and older are recommended to receive an influenza vaccination each year. Depending on the vaccine types available to you, the 2013-2014 vaccine will protect against either three or four different influenza viruses.
Vaccination is especially important for certain people who are at "high risk" of serious complications from seasonal flu. People at high risk include adults age 65 years and older, children younger than five years of age, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.
In addition, people who live with or care for persons who are at increased risk of developing serious complications should be vaccinated. This includes household contacts and caregivers of young children (especially infants less than 6 months of age) and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as the vaccine is available, which is often as early as August. Protection from the vaccine occurs within two weeks of vaccination and lasts throughout the flu season. If you don’t get it right away, you can still get vaccinated through the fall, winter, or spring since flu season usually peaks in January or February but often continues through May.
Children aged 6 months through 8 years of age who have never received a seasonal flu vaccine need two doses of vaccine spaced at least 4 weeks apart. This flu season (2013-2014), other children in this age group may need two doses as well. For individuals 9 years of age and older, only one dose of vaccine is needed each flu season regardless of how early the vaccine is given.
There are two primary types of vaccine, inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), also known as the “flu shot”, and live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as the nasal-spray flu vaccine.
A number of different manufacturers produce influenza vaccines for the U.S. market, including intramuscular (IM), intradermal, and nasal-spray vaccines. Talk with your healthcare provider to determine which vaccine may be best for you. Most of the flu vaccine offered for the 2013-2014 season will be trivalent (protects against three influenza viruses). New this year, some seasonal flu vaccines will be formulated to protect against four flu viruses (quadrivalent flu vaccines). All nasal-spray vaccines are now quadrivalent; however, this makes up only a small portion of total vaccine availability. In addition, multiple types of flu shots are available this year including cell culture-based, recombinant hemagglutinin, and high-dose. For many vaccine recipients, more than one type or brand of vaccine may be appropriate. Where more than one type of vaccine is appropriate and available, VDH and CDC make no preferential recommendation for use of any influenza vaccine product over another.
While there are many types of flu viruses, flu vaccine protects against the three or four types of flu viruses that are most likely to be circulating during the current flu season.
The 2013-2014 trivalent influenza vaccines protect against the following three viruses:
The quadrivalent vaccines protect against four viruses: the three viruses above as well as a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus, for a total of two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
Handouts for Patients and Staff
Talking About Influenza Vaccination
Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, and college/university health centers. Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, such as at a health department or pharmacy. Individuals who lack health insurance should contact their local health department to inquire about flu vaccination clinics.
Visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to locate where you can get a flu shot.