With the crisp fall weather about to kick into full gear, that can only means one thing: Flu season is right around the corner. With that in mind, it might be fair to wonder if you should get a flu shot this year. Let’s take a brief look at the facts about flu vaccination.

Herd Immunity

The short answer is that just about everyone should get vaccinated against the flu, with a few minor exceptions. These are:

  • Being less than 6 months old.

  • Having severe allergies to either the vaccine itself or any of the ingredients used in its production.

  • This fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its policy regarding one particular group of people, those with egg allergy.

The production of most, but not all, flu vaccines use egg proteins. It was once standard practice that people received skin tests for an egg allergy prior to their shot and that those who tested positive would be closely monitored for 30 minutes following the vaccination. In recent years, however, research has shown that skin tests don’t effectively predict whether the flu shot will cause a reaction.

Moreover, the actual risk of a severe reaction has been deemed so low (about 1.31 per one million vaccine doses given) that the CDC no longer recommends wasting time to hold most patients with egg allergies behind. People with especially severe egg allergies may still be monitored, but now they can be watched by any medical provider trained to treat allergic attacks rather than strictly doctors.

This universal recommendation holds true despite the fact that flu shots aren’t 100 percent foolproof and can vary in effectiveness from season-to-season depending on how well scientists accurately predicted the current season’s primary flu strain. For one, because even though the vaccine does not prevent all cases of flu, it can still lower the severity of any given infection. And secondly, vaccination also helps protect the most vulnerable among us — the very young, old, and people with weakened immune systems. Simply put, the more people are vaccinated, the less likely that a flu outbreak can spread far and wide and infect these individuals. And although the flu can be tormenting for most people, it’s much more likely to be deadly among these high-risk groups.

So while preventing or reducing the risk of catching the flu can be a good enough reason to get the shot, it’s also a simple and significant way to help your community. Despite the availability of a nasal spray version of the vaccine that’s made with the live influenza virus, the CDC is still recommends people only stick to the standard version that carries dead virus this upcoming season. That means regardless of the prevailing misconception, there’s no way the vaccine can actually give you the flu.