There may not be adequate supplies of flu vaccine to vaccinate everyone against flu every year. In that case, vaccine manufacturers and public health authorities will work together to assure those at greatest risk receive vaccines first.
Priorities for flu vaccination include individuals at high risk for complications and their caregivers. This includes children 6 months to 5 years old, pregnant women, those over 50 years old, people who live in nursing homes and those with chronic illnesses.
Complications associated with flu vaccine are very rare and include pain and swelling at the injection site, fever and aches (more common in children), and allergic reactions to components of the vaccine.
Medicines used to treat flu can also be used to prevent flu, but these work best when used in addition to the vaccine. Otherwise, they must be taken for the whole flu season, which spans fall and winter.
Some people cannot take vaccine and may need to take these medications to prevent flu. Check with your doctor if you have questions about flu prevention.
Keeping sick people at home, washing hands frequently, covering nose and mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing will prevent flu, as well as ward off other germs that cause colds, vomiting or diarrhea.
Dr. Sally Houston is an associate professor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and chief of staff at Tampa General Hospital.