Skip to main content

Health library

5 key facts about flu vaccines

Reviewed 9/27/2023

5 key facts about flu vaccines

The flu can make you feel miserable. Fortunately, there's a simple way to avoid this common illness—get a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine gives you the best chance of avoiding the flu. Vaccination also helps keep you from spreading the flu to others.

Scroll on to learn five facts about flu vaccinations that may help you better understand their safety and importance.

Flu vaccines are extremely safe.

Nearly everyone ages 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And they can do so with confidence, since flu vaccines have undergone rigorous studies and been given to millions of people in the U.S. safely for nearly 50 years.

And despite what you might have heard, you cannot get the flu from the vaccines. Flu shots use either inactive viruses or a protein from the flu virus. The nasal spray vaccine uses a live virus that has been weakened so it won't cause illness.

Flu vaccines save lives.

Each year, many people have complications from the flu that can result in hospital stays and deaths. Flu vaccines help prevent these severe outcomes. Of course, no flu vaccine prevents 100% of infections. But people who are vaccinated and still get the flu usually have a less severe illness, compared to those who are unvaccinated.

You need a new flu vaccination every year.

There are a couple of reasons that you need a flu vaccine each year. One is that the protection from the vaccine fades with time. An annual vaccine updates that protection and gives you the best chance of avoiding the flu.

Another reason is that flu viruses are constantly changing. Each year, the composition of the flu vaccine is reviewed and updated if needed to make sure it provides the best possible protection.

There are special vaccines for seniors.

Starting with the 2022–2023 flu season, there are stronger flu shots recommended for adults 65 and older, who may need enhanced protection from the flu. If for some reason one of the stronger flu shots isn't available when you go to get vaccinated, you should get the regular flu shot instead.

You should aim to be vaccinated by the end of October—but later is better than never.

Getting vaccinated early means you’ll be protected when flu season typically starts. There is no need to wait until later in the year. The vaccine will still protect you throughout the entire flu season.

If you miss getting vaccinated early in the season, you should still get the shot later. You can benefit from the vaccine whenever the flu is still spreading. In some years, that can be as late as spring.

Test your knowledge of the flu

Myths about the flu get around. Can you spot them? Find out with this quick quiz.

Take the quiz


Related stories