Published On: Fri, Oct 6th, 2017

Is There Any Reason Not to Get a Flu Shot?

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Richard Perry/The New York Times

Q. Is there any reason someone should not get a flu shot?

A. Health officials urge all Americans 6 months and older to get an annual flu shot — except for those who have ever had a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction to an influenza vaccine or vaccine component. Individuals who have had severe allergic reactions to a flu vaccine “should not get the vaccine again,” said Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, a medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For years, people with egg allergies were also warned to avoid flu shots, since eggs were used to help make the vaccine. But the current recommendation is to go ahead and be vaccinated, Dr. Grohskopf said. Though eggs may still be used in the manufacturing process, the amount of egg protein present in the vaccine is so small it is unlikely to cause a reaction, Dr. Grohskopf said. Even when someone has a severe egg allergy, she said, “we still recommend they be vaccinated, but have it done in a medical setting with a provider present, who can recognize and manage an emergency reaction.” Influenza vaccination is also recommended during pregnancy, to protect both the mother and baby.

Before being vaccinated, discuss your health with your doctor. Tell your doctor if you experienced severe side effects to previous vaccines, and whether you have ever had Guillain-Barré syndrome, especially if you developed it within six weeks of a previous vaccination. The rare disorder, which can cause transient paralysis, has been linked to influenza vaccinations.

Also tell your health provider if you are not feeling well or have a fever. “If it’s a mild illness, it’s fine to go ahead and be vaccinated,” Dr. Grohskopf said. “But if you’re sicker, you would generally want to wait until you’re feeling better,” since symptoms of your illness could be confused with possible reactions from the vaccine.

Mild reactions to a vaccination, from soreness or swelling at the injection site to fever, fatigue and muscle pain, are common, she said, and usually go away on their own; this kind of reaction should not deter people from getting future vaccinations.

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