The following Q&A addresses common questions about influenza vaccine safety. Additional vaccine safety information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vaccine Safety Page.
Are there side effects of influenza vaccines?
Influenza vaccines are associated with some mild, short-term side effects. Two different types of influenza vaccine are available: injectable inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) and live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) that is administered as a nasal spray. The most common side effects from the injected influenza vaccine are soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site. The viruses in the injectable vaccine are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from it. The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine are weakened (attenuated) so that they cannot reproduce and cause illness in humans. The most common side effects of the nasal spray vaccine are runny nose or nasal congestion, headache, and sore throat.
Influenza vaccines are safe, time tested, and manufactured in the same manner each year.
Can all children get the influenza vaccine?
Nearly all children can receive the influenza vaccine. Infants younger than 6 months of age should not be immunized against influenza because they cannot develop an adequate immune response. Children who have had a severe reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to eggs or egg proteins, a previous influenza vaccine-associated allergic reaction or who have developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously, should avoid immunization. However, children with a mild allergy to eggs or egg protein (such as those who experience hives) are recommended to receive the inactivated vaccine, but should be observed for at least 30 minutes after vaccination. Children with high fever should wait until their symptoms subside; however, immunization is okay during minor illnesses, with or without fever.
The injectable influenza vaccine is safe for all children at least 6 months of age. Certain people should not receive the nasal vaccine, including children younger than 2 years of age and those who are taking aspirin, are pregnant, have certain underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, or are immunocompromised. Parents should check with their healthcare provider to determine which vaccine is best for their child.
Is immunization safe for a child with a chronic medical condition?
The injectable influenza vaccine is safe for all infants and children 6 months of age and older. In fact, immunization is especially beneficial for individuals with compromised immune systems or certain underlying medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, heart disease), because influenza can worsen these conditions or cause serious complications in these children. However, some of these children may not have a good immune response to the vaccine so it is particularly important that everyone around them also receive influenza vaccine.
Is a child ever too young to be immunized?
Yes. Children younger than 6 months of age should not get influenza vaccine, because they cannot develop an adequate immune response. To protect these young infants from influenza, also called flu, it is important that people in close contact with them are immunized to avoid passing on influenza. Beginning at 6 months of age, it is very important for infants to be immunized, because babies are extremely vulnerable to severe complications – even death – from influenza.
Can my baby handle so many vaccines in such a short period?
Babies manage a huge number of challenges to their immune systems beginning at birth.Their bodies have billions of immune cells that keep bacteria in check. Vaccines are a very small, but important part of the immune challenges babies encounter. Vaccines provide essential protection against more than a dozen diseases to help babies get through the most vulnerable period of their lives and to keep them healthy in the future.