Why you need to get the flu vaccine

Oct. 7, 2014—Less than half of the people in the United States protected themselves with a flu vaccine during the 2013–2014 flu season, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC strongly advises that people 6 months and older—with only rare exceptions—should get a yearly vaccine against the flu. Despite this advice, the report found only 46.2 percent of Americans in the recommended age group were vaccinated against the flu in the 2013–2014 flu season.

About the report

The report drew on data from random phone surveys in which 400,000 American adults were asked if they’d had a flu vaccine. Researchers then compared the current responses to past survey answers.

Among other things, they found that kids were better protected from the flu than adults. During the 2013–2014 flu season:

  • Almost 59 percent of kids nationwide got a flu vaccine—a rise of 2.3 percent over the previous season.
  • Only 42.2 percent of adults age 18 or older were vaccinated—an increase of 0.7 over the previous season.
  • The lowest rate of flu vaccination was among adults ages 18 to 49. Only 32.3 percent of them got the vaccine.

Read more about the report’s results here.

The take-home message
An annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, which can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and can even be deadly. According to CDC, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized every year nationwide with flu complications.

Given that the flu can be quite serious, a yearly flu vaccine is in the best interest of almost everyone 6 months and older. To find out if you’re one of the rare people who shouldn’t be vaccinated—or if you should talk to your doctor before getting a vaccine—read these CDC recommendations here.

Among other things, the flu vaccine can protect you from missing work or school, from being hospitalized, and even from dying. In short, it’s dangerous to skip it.

Here are four things to keep in mind about the flu vaccine:

  1. It’s safe. It has very few side effects, and the most common ones are mild.
  2. It’s best to get vaccinated early. CDC says it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide complete protection. Those who get vaccinated before the flu hits their community will have a better chance of being protected.
  3. It won’t give you the flu. That’s a myth—and not a reason to skip the vaccine, CDC cautions
  4. Those who avoid the vaccine because they don’t like shots can ask their doctor about a nasal spray flu vaccine. This option is approved for healthy people ages 2 to 49, except for pregnant women. CDC recommends it for children ages 2 to 8 years when it’s available and notes that it may work better than the shot for younger children.

Want to know more? Here are some additional helpful questions and answers about the flu.


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