Dr. Greene’s Answer:
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccines for everyone 6 months and older.
When flu vaccine supplies are limited, the CDC recommends priority vaccination for the following groups:
- Family members and other close contacts of infants less than 6 months of age. Children less than 6 months are too young to receive the vaccine, but are at higher risk for complications if they get the flu.
- Children 6 months to 5 years of age and adults 50 years of age or older. Flu tends to be most serious in children under 5 and in the elderly, so it makes sense to prioritize vaccination for these groups even if they are healthy.
- Anyone 6 months to 18 years old on aspirin.
- Women who are or will be pregnant during flu season. Pregnant women are at risk for serious flu infections. Vaccinating pregnant women also helps prevent new mothers from contracting flu and infecting their newborn babies.
- Anyone with a chronic health problem, weakened immune systems, or nerve or muscular disease.
- Anyone who is morbidly obese (body-mass index is 40 or greater).
- Anyone living in a nursing home or care facility.
- American Indians/Alaska Natives.
- People should also be vaccinated if they are likely to be exposed to flu (such as teachers) or if they are going to be around people at high risk for complications if they were to get sick (i.e. a relative on chemotherapy). People who have close contact to those in groups 1-8 above should get the flu vaccine. Because I am a pediatrician, I get the flu vaccine every year.
Some people will have mild reactions to the flu vaccine, but most of these are probably the same people who would get much sicker than average with the flu. Those who have had severe reactions to the flu vaccine or to chicken eggs should not receive the vaccine. The flu vaccine has traditionally been given as a shot. However, there is now a nasal spray that is a more pleasant alternative for healthy (no chronic illnesses), non-pregnant people 2-49 years old.
Last reviewed: November 14, 2010