Widely acknowledged to be the most successful medical advance ever, vaccines continue to save hundreds of thousands of lives annually. On the cusp of flu season, it’s time for everyone to get their flu shot.

About two weeks are required following vaccination for the body to develop protection.

A disease of the respiratory tract, the flu is caused by influenza viruses. Influenza usually starts suddenly, and symptoms include fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache, and runny or stuffy nose. Certain groups of people are more likely to have severe disease if infected by the influenza virus.

These include young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions (such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, nervous system disorders, or a weakened immune system).

WHAT IS THE INFLUENZA VACCINE?

The flu shot contains inactivated viral components. Because the influenza viruses are constantly changing, new flu vaccines are made each year. The vaccine protects against several strains of virus that are most likely to cause disease during that particular year therefore protection does not last from one year to the next. The influenza vaccine should be given each year before the start of the influenza season.

AT WHAT AGE SHOULD INFLUENZA VACCINE BE GIVEN?

• The influenza vaccination is not part of the EPI schedule.

• The injectable vaccine can be given as early as 6 months of age.

• For children between 6 months and 8 years of age who are receiving the influenza vaccine for the first time, two doses one month apart are given in a single year.

WHO SHOULD NOT RECEIVE THE FLU VACCINE?

• People who’ll have a serious allergic reaction to any of the substances contained in the vaccine e.g. egg allergy.

• People who have had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

• People who are seriously ill.

COMMON QUESTIONS

Where on the body is the influenza vaccine give?
The injectable vaccine or flu shot is given on the arm (or the thigh of infants).

If my child gets the influenza vaccine, what is the chance he/she could still get the disease?
About two weeks are required following vaccination for the body to develop protection. During this time, it is possible to be infected with the influenza virus. Protection conferred by the vaccine lasts for several months up to a year, but a few individuals can still get the disease.

Are there any side-effects of the influenza vaccine?
Side-effects sometimes occur after administration of the vaccine. These include pain, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, hoarseness, sore, red or itchy eyes, cough, fever, aches, headache, itching, or fatigue. Severe allergic reactions can occur a few minutes or hours following vaccine administration and usually presents as hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, increased heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness.