Decision Focus: Vaccinations for Flu Season
Confused about which vaccinations to get this fall? We'll tell you which family members need swine flu and seasonal flu shots.
Flu shots. Some years you've been faithful about getting the whole family in for a seasonal flu shot. Other years - maybe not so much.
This year is no time to let vaccines slide down your priority list, with both swine (H1N1) flu and seasonal flu out there. Planning your family's vaccinations, including ones for grandma and grandpa, may be one of the most important tasks you do all year. Experts advise that you get flu vaccinations as soon as they become available, usually in the early fall.
Who should get seasonal and swine flu vaccinations?
Swine flu vaccination. The following people are at high risk and should be among the first to get vaccinated:
- Pregnant women
- Caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age
- Health care and emergency medical services personnel
- Children and young adults from 6 months through 24 years old
- People 25 through 64 years old who have underlying health conditions that might increase their risk for flu-related complications
Anyone else who wants to reduce their chance of getting swine flu should get vaccinated.
Seasonal flu vaccination. In general, anyone who wants to lower their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. Further, the CDC recommends that the following people get the flu vaccine:
- Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
- Pregnant women
- People 50 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including babies younger than 6 months
Reasons to get the swine flu and seasonal flu vaccines
- They protect you and your family from two types of flu. Every year, 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu. That's one in 20 to one in five people, depending on the year.
- Being protected can protect you and your family from serious problems caused by the flu. More than 200,000 people a year are hospitalized from flu-related complications.
- Being protected will give you peace of mind. How forcefully the swine flu will return is an unknown.
Not everyone will need both vaccines. But almost everyone can get the seasonal flu vaccine. Avoiding the seasonal flu may mean that you'll be in overall better health and be able to fend off disease through the flu season.
Reasons not to get vaccinated
People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs or had a severe reaction in the past should check with their doctors to see if they should get the shots.
- Some people want to take every precaution to prevent illness.
- Some may have religious beliefs that conflict with getting vaccinations.
- Others are concerned about vaccine safety. Vaccines, like any medication, can cause side effects. Rarely, those can be serious. For most people, though, benefits outweigh the risks of these vaccines.
Before you make a decision based on this concern, weigh the risks and benefits with your doctor. Not getting immunized puts you at risk of getting a disease that could, in rare cases, be fatal. It also raises the risk that you can spread the virus to others who may be at high risk for complications.
Another vaccination to consider
People are at increased risk of getting pneumonia when they get the seasonal or swine flu. One type of pneumonia can be prevented with a vaccine. The CDC recommends the following people get the appropriate pneumonia vaccine:
- All children under 5 years of age.
- People age 65 or older
- People who have problems with their lungs, heart, liver, or kidneys, and people with diabetes, lowered immune systems, or who take certain medications or have certain other chronic diseases.
- Anyone 19 years or older who has asthma or smokes
Ask your doctor if you should have the pneumonia vaccine.