Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different types of flu vaccines?
There are two types of flu vaccines: A “flu shot” that is delivered by injection and a nasal-spray flu vaccine.
The flu shot that so many of us are familiar with contains killed, or inactivated, virus.
The nasal-spray flu vaccine is made with live, weakened flu viruses that will not cause the flu. Nasal-spray flu vaccine is approved for healthy people from 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.
Both vaccines contain at least three strains of flu viruses based on scientists predictions of which types of flu are most likely to circulate this year. Whichever flu vaccine you receive, antibodies against the flu will develop in your body about two weeks later.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza or spreading influenza to others.
The flu vaccine is particularly important for several groups:
- People who provide essential community services.
- People living in dormitories or under other crowded conditions.
- People at high risk of influenza complications who travel to the Southern hemisphere between April and September, who travel to the tropics or who are in organized tourist groups at any time. (Note from Jim: Why is this? Some more information here might be helpful to people.)
- All children from 6 months up to 5 years of age.
- Anyone 50 years of age or older.
- Anyone from 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment, as these people could develop Reye Syndrome if they become ill with influenza.
- Women who may be pregnant during flu season.
- Anyone with long-term health problems, including the following: heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, and metabolic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, anemia and other blood disorders.
- Anyone with a weakened immune system due to the following: HIV/AIDS or other diseases affecting the immune system, long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids, cancer treatment with radiation or chemotherapy.
- Anyone with certain muscle or nerve disorders (such as seizure disorders or severe cerebral palsy) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems.
- Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities.
- Anyone who lives with or cares for people at high risk for influenza-related complications.
- Health care providers.
- Caregivers and people in contact with children from birth up to 5 years of age.
- Caregivers and people in contact with those 50 years and older.
- Anyone with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.
Is there anyone who should not get the flu vaccine?
There are some people who should not get the flu vaccine.
- Allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are rare. But if you have any severe allergies, speak to your doctor about whether you should get the flu vaccine.
- If you have a severe egg allergy you should not get the flu vaccine.
- If you have a severe allergy to any vaccine component you should not get the flu vaccine. If you are not sure if you have such an allergy, ask your doctor.
- If you have ever had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine, ask you doctor whether you should get the flu vaccine this year.
- If you have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS), talk to your doctor. You may be able to get the vaccine, but your doctor should help you make the decision.
- People who are moderately or severely ill with a fever should usually wait until they recover before getting flu vaccine. If you are ill, talk to your doctor or nurse about whether to reschedule the vaccination. People with a mild illness can usually still receive the vaccine.
Live Nasal Vaccine is not licensed for everyone.
The following people should get the inactivated vaccine (flu shot) instead:
- Adults 50 years of age and older or children between 6 months and 2 years of age. (Children younger than 6 months should not get either influenza vaccine.)
- Children younger than 5 with asthma or one or more episodes of wheezing within the past year.
- People who have long-term health problems including heart disease, kidney or liver disease, lung disease, metabolic disease such as diabetes, asthma, anemia and other blood disorders.
- Anyone with certain muscle or nerve disorders (such as seizure disorders or cerebral palsy) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems.
- Anyone with a weakened immune system.
- Children or adolescents on long-term aspirin treatment.
- Pregnant women.
When should I get the flu vaccine?
You can get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available and for as long as the illness is occurring. Influenza illness can occur any time from November through May. Most cases occur in January or February.
Most people need one dose of influenza vaccine each year. Children younger than 9 years of age who are getting the flu vaccine for the first time should get 2 doses. For inactivated vaccine, these doses should be given at least 4 weeks apart.
The flu vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines, including pneumococcal vaccine.
What are the risks of getting a flu shot?
Like any medicine, the flu vaccine could possibly cause serious problems such as severe allergic reactions. Serious problems from the flu vaccine are very rare. The risk of a vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small. Since the viruses in the vaccine have been inactivated or killed, you cannot get influenza from the vaccine.
Are there side effects I should be concerned about?
For flu shots there are several mild problems that may occur after you receive your flu vaccine:
- Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given.
- Muscle aches.
If you experience these problems, they will usually begin soon after the shot and last from one to two days.
For the nasal version of the vaccine, some children and adolescents 2-17 years of age have reported mild reactions, including the following:
- Runny nose, nasal congestion or cough
- Headache and muscle aches
- Abdominal pain or occasional vomiting or diarrhea
Some adults 18-49 years of age have reported the following side effects from the nasal version of the vaccine:
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Sore throat
These symptoms were mild, did not last long and went away on their own.
Severe problems are rare.
- Life-threatening allergic reactions from the flu vaccine are very rare. If they do occur, it is usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot.
- In 1976, a certain type of influenza (swine flu) vaccine was associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). Since then, flu vaccines have not been clearly linked to GBS. If there is a risk of GBS from current flu vaccines, it is no more than 1 or 2 cases per million people vaccinated. This is much lower than the risk of severe influenza, which can be prevented by vaccination.
What are the signs of a severe reaction to the flu vaccine?
You should be aware of any unusual condition, such as a high fever or behavior changes. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat or dizziness.
What should I do if I have a severe reaction after leaving the flu clinic?
- Call a doctor, or get the person to a doctor right away. Call 9-11 if you need to
- Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time of your reaction and when the vaccination was given.
- Also, be sure to Ask your doctor, nurse, or health department to report the reaction by filing a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) forms. or you can file this report through the VAERS web site at www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967. VAERS does not provide medical advice.
Is there any assistance available for me if I have a severe reaction?
In the event that you or your child has a serious reaction to a vaccine, a federal program has been created to help pay for care. It’s called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
For details about this program, call 1-800-338-2382 or visit their website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation.
How can I learn more about the flu vaccine?
Feel free to ask for more information at your URMC Flu Clinic. We may be able to provide you with the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
You can also call your local or state health department, or contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO). Or visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu
Will insurance cover my flu vaccination?
Most major Insurances – except for Traditional Medicaid.
If my insurance doesn’t cover me, how much will it cost to get vaccinated?
The cost is $30 per vaccination. This amount can be paid in cash or by check made payable to University of Rochester School of Nursing.
How much does it cost to set up a flu clinic for my company?
Here are the costs for setting up a flu clinic for your company or organization:
- $150 for one Registered Nurse for the first hour. (This amount is waived if your company has more then 100 people vaccinated.)
- $50 for each additional RN.
- $50/hour for each additional hour, regardless of the number of RNs you require/