Northern Kentucky Health Department
Flu: Frequently Asked Questions
Updated: April 4, 2013
For basic information on flu, including
fact sheet. For specific
questions, see below. If your question isn't answered here,
Is this year's flu vaccine a good match for the viruses that we are seeing?
Will my child need one or two doses of the vaccine?
Who can receive the FluMist?
Is the spray or shot more
How long will the flu
shot's effectiveness last?
Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?
What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?
How much does the vaccine cost?
If I am ill, will I be able to receive the vaccine?
Will you absolutely not get the flu if you get the
What is Guillain-Barré syndrome and what are the risks
associated with it and vaccinations?
I have concerns about the use of thimerosal. Is thimerosal
still being used?
breastfeeding mom receive the flu shot or nasal spray?
I've heard that the flu vaccine is effective only half the time. Is that true?
Questions about vaccines
How can I get the flu
Health Department will offer a limited number of doses of flu vaccine by
appointment at its four county health centers.
Please call the health center in the county
where you live to schedule an appointment, though the appointment can be at any
Those who are able
to pay a $20 fee for the vaccine will be asked to do so; those who
are unable to pay will not be turned away.
Some may have the fees reduced and even
eliminated through either a federal program providing vaccines to
children; or for individuals covered by health insurance, Medicare
Many doctors' offices and
pharmacies are offering the flu vaccine as well.
Is this year's flu vaccine a good match for the virus that we are seeing?
Most cases of flu reported so far seem to be a good match for the vaccine,
according to the CDC 91% of specimens tested match one of the three strains in
this year’s vaccine.
Will my child need
one or two doses of the vaccine?
Typicallly, children aged
6 months through 8 years require
two doses of influenza vaccine during their first season of vaccination
(administered a minimum of four weeks apart) to optimize immune response.
Who can receive the FluMist
The FluMist is recommended for the
healthy children, adolescents and adults (aged 2 through 49 years) except for pregnant adolescents
Is the spray or shot more
In the past, most healthy individuals 2-49 years of age had a robust response to either vaccine. For the older population, the shot seems to be more
Will the flu vaccine give me the
The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you
cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The FluMist contains live (activated)
viruses, but they are weakened and do not cause severe symptoms often associated
are the side effects of the flu vaccine?
For the shot, some minor side effects that could occur are
soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given; low grade fever; and
aches. In children, side effects of the FluMist that could occur are runny nose,
wheezing, headache, vomiting, muscle aches and fever. For adults, side effects
of the FluMist that could occur are runny nose, headache, sore throat and cough.
If I am ill, will I
be able to receive the vaccine?
Anyone who is moderately or severely ill (including those who've
had a fever within the last 24 hours) might be advised to wait until he/she
recovers before getting the vaccine. If you have a mild cold or other illness,
there is usually no reason to wait.
you absolutely not get the flu if you get the vaccine?
Unfortunately, some people who are vaccinated against the flu may still get
sick. However, it usually is a milder case. Some reasons why a person may become
People may be exposed to a flu virus shortly before
getting vaccinated or during the 2-week period it takes the body to gain
A person may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal
flu vaccine. Each year’s vaccine protects against the 3 viruses that
research suggests will be most common.
Flu vaccination is not a perfect tool, but it is the
best tool currently at our disposal to prevent the flu
What is Guillain-Barré syndrome and what are the risks associated with it and
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder in
which a person’s own immune system damages the nerve cells, causing muscle
weakness and sometimes paralysis. GBS can cause symptoms that last for a few
weeks or several months. Most people recover fully from GBS, but some people
have permanent nerve damage. In rare cases, people have died of GBS, usually
from difficulty with breathing. In the United States, for example, an estimated
3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS each year on average, whether or not they
received a vaccination. This is about one to two cases of GBS per 100,000
Scientists first reported a suspected link between GBS and
vaccinations in 1976, during a national campaign to vaccinate people against a
swine flu virus. The investigation found that vaccine recipients had a higher
risk for GBS than those who were not vaccinated (about one additional case
occurred per 100,000 people vaccinated). Given this association, and the fact
that the swine flu disease was limited, the vaccination program was stopped.
Since then, numerous studies have been done to evaluate if other flu vaccines
were associated with GBS. In most studies, no association was found, but two
studies suggested that approximately 1 additional person out of 1 million
vaccinated people may be at risk for GBS associated with the seasonal influenza
vaccine. GBS has not been an issue in the ongoing swine flu vaccine trials.
I have concerns about the use of thimerosal. Is thimerosal still being used?
Since 2001, no new vaccine licensed by FDA for
use in children has contained thimerosal as a preservative, and all vaccines
routinely recommended by the CDC for children under 6 years of age have been thimerosal-free, or contain only trace amounts, except for multi-dose
formulations of influenza vaccine. This was done as a precautionary step and not
because there was evidence confirming that thimerosal-containing vaccines were
causing health problems. The most recent and rigorous scientific research does
not support the hypothesis that thimerosal-containing vaccines are harmful.
Thimerosal is an important preservative that protects vaccines
against potential microbial contamination, which may occur in opened multi-dose
vials of vaccine. Such contamination could cause serious illness or death. Since
seasonal influenza vaccine is produced in large quantities for annual
immunization campaigns, some of the vaccine is produced in multi-dose vials and
contains thimerosal to safeguard against possible contamination of the vial once
it is opened.
breastfeeding mom receive the flu shot ?
Yes. Both seasonal flu vaccines should be given to
breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding is fully compatible with flu
vaccination and preventing the flu in mothers can reduce the chance that the
infant will get the flu. Also, by breastfeeding, mothers can pass on to the
infant the antibodies that their bodies make in response to the flu shots, which
last for six months and can reduce the infant’s chances of getting sick with the flu. This is especially
important for infants less than 6 months old who have no other way of receiving
vaccine antibodies, since they are too young to be vaccinated.
I've heard that the
flu vaccine is effective only half the time. Is that true?
The flu vaccine continues to be one of the best ways
to protect ourselves against the flu. It is true that current influenza vaccines
have limitations in terms of how well they work, including how well they work to
protect different groups of people. Additionally, how well the flu vaccine works
(i.e., its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to
season and can also vary depending on the health and age of the person being
The Health Department encourages Northern Kentucky residents
to continue to be vaccinated against the flu, and to also take other measures to
prevent the spread of illnesses, such as washing hands frequently, covering
coughs/sneezes and staying home when sick.
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Ask a question about flu
If you have a question that's
not covered here or in the
flu fact sheet, ask it using the form below. An
effort will be made to respond to questions either by e-mail or by posting the
question and response on this Web site. Responses to questions may be limited to
residents of Northern Kentucky (Boone, Campbell, Grant or Kenton County) if the
volume is high.