Vaccines to Prevent the Flu

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Topic Overview

Can you prevent the flu?

You can help prevent the flu by getting a flu vaccine every year, as soon as it is available. The vaccine prevents most cases of the flu. But even when the vaccine doesn't prevent the flu, it can make symptoms less severe and reduce the chance of problems from the flu.

What types of flu vaccines are there?

Flu viruses are always changing. Each year's flu vaccine is made to protect against viruses that are likely to cause disease that year. Ask your doctor whether or not a vaccine is safe for you and which one may be best for you.

Flu vaccines are made to work against more than one strain of flu. For example, a trivalent vaccine works against three strains, and a quadrivalent vaccine works against four strains of flu. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend one version over the other.

The vaccine is given as a shot.

What types of flu shots are there?

Flu shots do not contain a live virus. They do not cause the flu. They are sometimes called "inactivated" or "recombinant" vaccines.

  • "Standard" flu shots are approved for people 6 months and older.
  • A high-dose version is approved for people 65 and older. Ask your doctor if this shot is right for you.
  • An intradermal version is injected into the skin, not the muscle. This type of shot uses a much smaller needle than the other types of shots. This shot is approved for people ages 18 through 64.
  • An egg-free version is approved for people 18 and older. People with egg allergies can get this shot.

Not all locations that provide flu vaccines will have all the different types of shots.

Who should get a flu vaccine?

Everyone age 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine each year, except for people with a fever or those who have had serious problems with vaccines in the past. The flu vaccine lowers the chance of getting and spreading the flu.

Who is at high risk for problems from the flu?

The flu vaccine is very important for people who are at high risk for getting other health problems from the flu. This includes:

  • Anyone 50 years of age or older.
  • People who live in a long-term care center, such as a nursing home.
  • All children 6 months through 18 years of age.
  • Women who will be pregnant during the flu season.
  • Adults and children 6 months and older who have long-term heart or lung problems, such as asthma.
  • Adults and children 6 months and older who needed medical care or were in a hospital during the past year because of diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or a weak immune system (including HIV or AIDS).
  • People who have any condition that can make it hard to breathe or swallow (such as a brain injury or muscle disorders).
  • People who can give the flu to others who are at high risk for problems from the flu. This includes all health care workers and close contacts of people age 65 or older.


ByHealthwise Staff

Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine

Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine

Current as ofOctober 6, 2017