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Donna Lazorik Posted by Donna Lazorik, RN, MS. Donna is the Immunization Coordinator in the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The flu can make anyone sick, but for people with long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, flu can be much more serious. African-Americans are more likely to live with these chronic conditions – which is why it’s especially important for them to get vaccinated against the flu.

Yet every year we see lower rates for flu vaccination among African-Americans than their white and Hispanic counterparts. We’re working hard to change this, by letting people know the facts about how safe and effective the flu vaccine is.

First, health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say a flu vaccine is the first and best way to guard against the flu – and they recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine every year.

So why are some people reluctant to get vaccinated against the flu?

Is the flu vaccine safe?

Yes. Both seasonal flu vaccines (the flu shot and nasal spray) have excellent safety records, and continue to be monitored for safety – year in and year out. The most common side effects reported after flu vaccination are minor, and are far outweighed by the vaccine’s benefits. Millions of flu vaccines have been given safely over the years, and vaccine safety remains a priority every single year.

Can the flu vaccine give me the flu?

It’s also important to know that the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. Why? Because the flu shot contains killed viruses, and the nasal spray has weakened viruses that cannot cause illness. If you get flu-like symptoms soon after getting vaccinated, it can mean you may have been exposed to the flu before getting vaccinated, or during the two-week period it takes the body to gain protection after vaccination. It might also mean you are sick with another illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu.

I got my flu shot last year, so do why do I need another one this year?

When you get a flu shot, your body develops defenses against the most common flu viruses that are going around during that flu season. But those defenses eventually wear off  – which is why it’s important get the latest flu vaccine every flu season.

Remember, the flu can be especially serious for babies, children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with certain long-term medical conditions. However, even healthy people can get the flu and should protect themselves by getting the flu vaccine every year.

So please don’t wait – get vaccinated today! Contact your health care provider to make an appointment, or find a flu clinic in your area using this online flu clinic database.

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