Why Do You Need a Flu Shot Each Year? (and Answers to More Common Questions about the Flu Vaccine)

Have you ever wondered why you need a flu shot each year? Are you wondering whether it is safe for you (or your child) to get a flu shot because of a recent diagnosis? Are you curious about how effective the flu shot really is at preventing influenza? If so, you are not alone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently released an online publication that answers several common questions about the annual flu shot.

Here are some of the highlights (along with some additional insights from other sources):

Why Do You Need to Get a Flu Shot Each Year?

So, why do you need to get a flu shot each year? As the CDC explains, there are two main reasons why. First, “[f]lu viruses are constantly changing, so flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses that research suggests will be common during the upcoming flu season.” Second, “protection from a flu vaccine declines over time.” As a result, even if last year’s flu vaccine still protects against this year’s most prevalent flu strains, this does not necessarily mean that your last flu shot will still protect you.

When Is the Best Time to Get a Flu Shot?

The CDC advises that “[y]ou should get a flu vaccine by the end of October,” if possible. Flu season typically lasts from October to April or May, so getting vaccinated in the late summer or early fall will help ensure that your flu shot protects you throughout the season. With that said, it is never too late to get a flu shot, and the CDC also advises that “as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season, even in January or later.”

What are the Benefits of Getting an Annual Flu Shot?

The CDC lists several reasons to get vaccinated against the flu. According to the CDC, some of the main benefits of influenza immunization include:

  • Getting vaccinated not only reduces your risk of getting the flu, but it also reduces your risk of serious complications should you get sick.
  • Getting vaccinated not only protects you, but it also protects those around you. If you have parents or children who may be vulnerable, getting vaccinated reduces your risk of catching and transmitting the influenza virus.
  • For women who are pregnant, getting vaccinated during pregnancy can help protect their baby against the flu while their baby is still too young to receive an immunization.

How Effective Is the Flu Shot at Preventing Influenza?

The flu shot’s effectiveness varies from one flu season to the next. The CDC tracks the flu shot’s “vaccine effectiveness” rating from year to year. In recent years, the flu shot has only been about 30 to 40 percent effective in preventing the virus. However, in prior years, the flu shot’s vaccine effectiveness rating has been as high as 60 percent.

When Should Children Get Their First Flu Shot?

The CDC recommends that children get their first flu shot at six months of age. Even if a child’s first half birthday comes toward the end of a flu season, the CDC still recommends vaccination.

Who Should Not Get a Flu Shot?

The CDC maintains a separate online resource that lists populations of individuals who should not get a flu shot. However, individuals who are wondering whether immunization is the right choice for themselves or their children should consult with a doctor prior to making any decisions. According to the CDC, those who should not get a flu shot include:

  • Children under six months of age
  • Individuals who have severe, life-threatening allergies to any flu vaccine ingredients (other than egg proteins)
  • Individuals who have had severe allergic reactions to the flu shot in the past

The CDC also recommends consulting with a physician for individuals who:

  • Have an allergy to egg proteins
  • Have been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)
  • Have had a severe allergic reaction to any other vaccine

Are There Risks Involved with Getting a Flu Shot?

Individuals who get the flu shot may experience a variety of mild side effects. These include aches, soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, and a low-grade fever (among others). The CDC indicates that these side effects should generally subside in no more than a couple of days. However, the flu shot presents risks for certain injuries and illnesses as well, and while rare, these injuries and illnesses can have significant and long-term impacts on those who experience them. Some of the more serious risks associated with the annual flu shot include the following:

Can You Get the Flu from the Flu Shot?

As the CDC explains, “[f]lu shots are made using killed flu viruses (for inactivated vaccines), or without flu virus at all (for the recombinant vaccine). So, you cannot get flu from a flu shot.”

Can You Get the Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine Instead of a Flu Shot?

For the 2022-2023 flu season, the CDC has approved the nasal spray flu vaccine for individuals between the ages of 2 and 49. However, the CDC recommends against the nasal spray flu vaccine for women who are pregnant and individuals with certain health conditions.

What Should You Do if You Experience a Flu Shot-Related Injury or Illness?

If you experience a flu shot-related injury or illness, you should seek treatment promptly. You should also talk to a lawyer about your legal rights. You may be entitled to financial compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The VICP provides compensation for medical expenses, other out-of-pocket costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and you can hire a lawyer for your VICP claim at no cost.

Contact Vaccine Lawyer Leah V. Durant

If you need to know more about seeking financial compensation for a flu shot-related injury or illness, we encourage you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Call 202-800-1711 or contact us online to request an appointment today.


Leah Durant Bio

Experienced litigation attorney Leah Durant focuses on representing clients in complex vaccine litigation matters. Leah Durant is the owner and principal attorney of the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC, a litigation firm based in Washington, DC. Leah Durant and her staff represent clients and their families who suffer from vaccine-related injuries, adverse vaccine reactions and vaccine-related deaths. The Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC is dedicated to assisting individuals in recovering the highest level of compensation as quickly and efficiently as possible. To learn more, contact vaccine attorney Leah Durant today.