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What is a Flu Vaccine?

A flu vaccine, also called “flu shot or flu jab”, protects you against infection by influenza viruses. It is a yearly vaccine that prevents you from getting the flu.

Overview of Flu

Flu, also called ‘influenza’, is a common viral infection affecting the nose, throat and lungs. It is a condition that spreads from person to person and presents as: 
Chills, fever and/or sore throat 
Runny nose and congestion or cough
Muscle and joint pain, headache or fatigue

Facts about Flu Vaccine

  • Typically given to people six months and older
  • Administered in the form of an injection or a nasal spray
  • Especially important for those who are at risk of flu and related complications
  • Considered safe even while under a course of antibiotics
  • Safe for a pregnant woman regardless of the stage of pregnancy
  • Poses no risk to a breastfeeding mother or her baby


The flu is highly infectious and can be life-threatening. It will usually clear up on its own within a week if you are otherwise healthy.

However, if it does not go away, the infection can stress the body causing super-infections, severe illness and even death among the vulnerable groups.

Therefore, it is important to prevent the flu by having an influenza vaccine. This will help protect you against catching flu and developing serious health complications.


Following are the different types of flu vaccine:

  • Injected flu vaccine: For children aged between 6 months and 2 years
  • Recombinant flu vaccine (made without flu virus)
  • Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV): For children aged 2 to 17, given as a nasal spray
  • Quadrivalent injected vaccine (QIVe or QIVc): For adults aged 18 to 64, who are either pregnant or at increased risk from flu due to a long-term health condition
  • Adjuvanted trivalent injected vaccine (aTIV) or a (QIVc): For people aged 65 and above

Ingredients of Flu Vaccine

  • Egg protein
  • Preservatives
  • Stabilizers
  • Antibiotics
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Formaldehyde

How Does the Flu Vaccine Work?

The flu vaccine, when administered, immediately stimulates your body's immune system to produce antibodies about two weeks after you receive it. Antibodies are proteins that recognize, attack and fight off germs such as viruses and protect against infections.

Why every year?

The antibodies that protect you from flu decline over time and the flu viruses can also change from year to year. New flu vaccines are developed to deal with new strains of the viruses and therefore, you need to have flu vaccine on a yearly basis.

Who Needs Flu Vaccine?

Almost everyone older than 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine every year.

However, flu shots are more important for:

  • Children aged between 6 months and 17 years
  • People who are:
  1. 65 years old or over, pregnant woman
  2. Having a weakened immune system
  3. Obese (seriously overweight)
  4. Have certain underlying diseases or chronic illness
  5. Living in a long-stay residential care home facility
  6. The main carers for elderly or disabled persons
  7. Frontline health and social care workers directly involved in patient care


Flu vaccines are offered at:

  • Doctors’ offices
  • Urgent care clinics
  • Health centers or departments
  • Local or community pharmacies
  • Registered homecare organizations
  • Schools, colleges or workplaces

Effectiveness of the Flu Vaccine

The flu vaccine will not stop all flu viruses. It protects against 3 or 4 types of flu viruses and the level of protection may vary. If you do get flu even after vaccination, it is likely to be milder and short-lived than it would otherwise have been.


  • Protects against catching flu and developing serious health issues
  • Reduces the risk of flu-associated hospitalization
  • Helps protect women during and after pregnancy
  • Acts as a life-saving tool in children and elderly alike
  • Helps to stop the flu spreading to other people who cannot have vaccines

Side Effects of Flu Vaccine

Like all medications, flu vaccines too can have side effects. The injections and nasal spray may cause different types of side effects.


  • Mild fever, nausea or fainting
  • Sore arm for 2 or 3 days (redness or swelling at the injection site)
  • Slight muscle aches for a day or so

Nasal sprays 

  • Mild, flu-like symptoms (especially in children)
  • A runny or blocked nose with a sore throat
  • Headache or tiredness, loss of appetite (rarely)

Flu vaccines have a good safety record, therefore serious or life-threatening side effects are very rare.

Talk to your healthcare provider for more information about flu vaccines and the required dosages. They will help you understand the flu vaccine, and decide which one is most effective and works best for you or your child.

Flu vaccines just don’t protect you – they also protect the people around you and keep you and your community healthy.

Alexandria Medical Associates

Primary care

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Suite 303,
Alexandria, VA 22310

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