Dr. Offit Answers the Question: “When Should I Get the Flu Vaccine?”

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Each year, most of the U.S. population 6 months of age and older is recommended to get vaccinated against influenza. Influenza, more commonly known as flu, is a contagious disease that infects millions of people in the United States every year, causing about 200,000 hospitalizations and thousands to tens of thousands of deaths. Symptoms caused by influenza can include fever, chills, muscle aches, congestion, cough, and runny nose, and can last for two to three days.

While people with influenza often feel very sick for a few days before recovering, influenza infections are particularly dangerous for specific groups, including older adults, those with chronic diseases of the heart and lungs, and pregnant women, among others. In addition to an increased chance of experiencing complications, such as pneumonia or encephalitis, influenza infections also make people more susceptible to infections caused by other organisms, particularly some bacteria, such as pneumococcus, that take advantage of a person’s weakened condition to cause a second infection.

As such, people who get vaccinated against influenza are protecting themselves and decreasing the chance of spreading the virus to the many high-risk people in their families and communities, who may be more likely to be hospitalized or die from influenza or related infections.

If you have not yet gotten vaccinated, watch this short video in which Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, discusses the best time to get the flu vaccine.

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Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.