Influenza Vaccines Are Safe

In this short video, Paul Offit, MD, Kristen Feemster, MD, and Louis Bell, MD, from at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia talk about the safety and effectiveness of the influenza vaccines, and why it's important to get vaccinated against the flu.


Paul Offit, MD: Hi, my name's Paul Offit. I'm Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases here at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and I thought I'd just talk to you for a couple minutes about the safety of the influenza vaccines for those of you who might be concerned about it.

There are really two different influenza vaccines. One is the shot given in the arm, and that is a killed virus, that side effect can be from the shot is pain or redness or tenderness at the site of injection. One can also have low-grade fever, sometimes a little achiness for a day or two. But, for the most part, the side effects are very shortlived and mild.

The other influenza vaccine is a nasal spray vaccine. That can cause, albeit not commonly, but can cause some runny nose and cough, also low-grade fever and some achiness. But, for the most part, these are very well-tolerated vaccines. The influenza vaccines were first made in the late 1940s. We've been giving, frankly, billions of doses since then safely, so there's every reason to believe that this vaccine is safe, and it's certainly effective in preventing a disease which can cause serious and occasionally fatal illness.

Thank you.

Kristen Feemster, MD: Hello, I'm Kristen Feemster from the Division of Infectious Diseases. The influenza vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself from influenza infection. Once you receive the vaccine, your body takes two weeks to make antibodies that can protect you. Some people may report that they develop some symptoms of influenza after they receive the vaccine. But remember, there are many viruses that can give you similar symptoms, and the vaccine is 90 percent effective in preventing influenza infection.

Dr. Louis Bell, MD: Hi, I'm Dr. Louis Bell. I'm the Division Chief for General Pediatrics and also a member of the Infection Control team here at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I was asked to talk to you today about, "Why should you get your influenza vaccine?"

Even if you're healthy it's important to get your vaccine. We know that besides the flu just making you feel miserable, that the virus can actually make it easier for you to get bacterial infections. One of the ones that I've seen in my career many times in children and teenagers is bacterial pneumonia following influenza. This would require antibiotics and sometimes admission to the hospital. Other bacterial infections that follow flu could be ear infections or sinusitis. Certainly, we know that if you have a chronic condition, such as heart failure, congestive heart failure, or asthma, or diabetes you definitely need to get your influenza vaccine.

Death is rare with influenza. Over the last 30 years in people who are 19 to 64 years of age, about 600 people a year die. It's not very common, but it can happen. Now, you might say that, "Maybe I'll just avoid anybody who looks sick during the flu season." We do know that healthy adults begin to shed this virus through talking and coughing or sneezing about a day before they feel sick and up to a week after they feel better. So it's easy to get it, and you may not know who can spread it to you.

So the bottom line — get your vaccine. Get your influenza vaccine this season. Protect yourself, and protect the family and children you're caring for here at CHOP.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center