The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone above the age of six months should take the flu vaccine for protection against flu or influenza.

However, there are contraindications to the vaccine and some people fall into the category, which should not take the flu vaccine.

Certain people who are more prone to and associated with the flu risk factors should be particularly more punctual and emphatic in taking the vaccination. Flu shots are very safe and offer year-round protection.

The vaccine offers protection to varying degrees in different people. In general, it reduces your chances of catching the flu by about 60 percent. People who are at a higher risk are more prone to being infected by the flu virus and they should be aware of this.

For maximum benefits, there are different types of flu vaccines made available to suit different age groups. Taking the right vaccine to suit you will bring about better protection.

Considering the misery, the flu can cause through its symptoms, the serious complications that can set in, and its mortality rates in the United States and Worldwide, taking the influenza vaccine becomes most essential.

Children, in particular, are more prone to get infected because their immune system is yet developing. Without the vaccine, they become very susceptible to getting infected.

Complications of flu in children, even the healthy ones particularly carry a higher mortality rate as compared to healthy adults.

After taking the shot, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop and offer you protection.

Whatever the conspiracy and the controversy surrounding the taking of the flu shot vaccine, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.

You have only the small pain of an injection prick to bear against the odds of facing the flu symptoms, which make you miserable for a full two weeks, and the possible dangers of its complications and mortality rates.

Who should essentially take the flu shot?  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that all individuals above the age of six months must take the flu shot.

In the Northern Hemisphere (e.g. United States), the best time to take the flu shot is just before the start of the flu season every year, preferably by the end of October.

If you miss out on this period, you must take the shot at the earliest possible time. You should take the flu vaccine once every year except for certain children between the ages of 6 months to 8 years who are required to take it twice a year under certain circumstances.

All healthy people and in particular the following class of people must essentially take the flu vaccine every year.

  • Children above six months and below the age of five years
  • Seniors above the age of 65 years
  • Smokers
  • People who have diabetes
  • People with certain medical conditions such as chronic diseases of   the heart (eg heart failure), lungs (bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma), kidney (renal failure), liver (hepatitis), blood (leukemia)
  • Certain genetic disorders make you susceptible to respiratory tract infections. These disorders include sickle-cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and Kartagener syndrome.
  • People under constant stress
  • Pregnant women in any trimester
  • Obese people
  • People who have not taken the flu vaccine during the prevailing year and are traveling to other parts of the world where the influenza season is ongoing must take the vaccine two weeks before traveling. You should know that the cold winter months of flu activity are not the same everywhere. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is October to May. In the temperate regions of the Southern Hemisphere, influenza activity occurs from April to September. In the tropics, you can catch the flu throughout the year.

Who Should Not Take the Flu Vaccine And Why? Contraindications

Having discussed the importance of taking the flu shot, there are certain individuals and circumstances when you should not take the vaccine.

Before receiving the influenza vaccine, always share your allergic history with your doctor.

The following individuals should not take the influenza vaccine:

Newborns and infants below the age of six months should not be vaccinated

Babies in this age group of age 6 months and below should not get the flu vaccine because their immune system is so immature that they cannot develop an adequate immune response and form antibodies to the injected vaccine.

Without an adequate immune response, giving the vaccine can allow the virus to multiply without any resistance in the body.

People in close contact should be careful to protect them and adopt ways to prevent these small babies from getting infected.

People with an allergy to eggs should not take the flu shot

Those with egg allergies should be careful when taking the vaccine. This is because the flu vaccine is grown in fertilized chicken eggs and contains minute quantities of the egg white protein.

So, if you are allergic to eggs, it is very likely that you will develop an allergic reaction to the influenza vaccine.

However, a study published online by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology from Hospital Sainte-Justine in Montreal has confirmed that a very insignificant number of people who are allergic to eggs develop a mild allergic reaction after taking the flu shot.

Most of them tolerate the flu vaccine well. The egg protein content in the flu vaccine has been over the years reduced to minuscule levels and is too minute to give a serious allergic reaction.

In addition, safe options without the egg ingredient are now available. You do have vaccines now made without the use of eggs.

You have cell-based vaccines now approved in 2012, which are manufactured by mixing the vaccine viruses with cultured mammalian cells (instead of incubating them in eggs) and allowing them to replicate for a few days.

Another vaccine called the recombinant vaccine was approved by the U.S, FDA in 2013. Its manufacturing process does not require the use of eggs and therefore, can safely be used by people with an allergy to eggs.

You should talk to your healthcare provider who will advise you on the type of vaccines you should use for immunity against the flu virus and be safe from egg allergic reactions.

People with a history of severe allergic reaction to a previously taken flu vaccine

People who have had a hypersensitive reaction to certain ingredients in the flu vaccine such as antibiotics, gelatin, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate, betapropionolactone, and other contents of the vaccine should not take the flu shot.

Some vaccines, not all, contain antibiotics, namely neomycin, polymixin, and kanamycin. These antibiotics prevent the chicken eggs from getting contaminated by bacteria. If you are severely allergic to such antibiotics, you should refrain from taking the vaccine.

However, some minor side effects such as arm soreness, minor rash at the injection site, or mild flu-like symptoms need not be contraindications.

People who have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of having taken the flu shot in the past

GBS is a severe paralytic sickness. It is an acute polyneuropathy disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system. The flu vaccine is contraindicated in people with GBS.

It is a rare disorder in which your own immune system attacks the peripheral nerves. The presenting symptoms include weakness and tingling in your extremities. The symptoms progress rapidly ultimately paralyzing the whole body.

Sick and down with a fever

If you are moderately or severely ill and down with fever, you should not take the flu vaccine but wait till you recover. However, when you recover, you can proceed to get vaccinated after you have consulted your doctor.

When you are already ill, your immune system is trying to produce antibodies to control the germs that have caused your illness. These germs may be bacteria or viruses.

Now, when you take the flu vaccine at such a time, your immune system comes under additional strain and may not be able to make enough antibodies to the vaccine because it is already under strain to fight the prevailing illness. Therefore, immunity to the influenza virus will not develop.

Secondly, under such circumstances, due to a strained immune system, your prevailing illness can become worse and it will take more time for you to recover.

Nasal congestion? No nasal spray vaccine

If you intend to take the nasal spray flu vaccine, you should wait till your nose clears up to get the full benefit of the vaccine.

If you are unfortunate to belong to the list of people who shouldn’t get vaccinated, you have to be extra careful and follow measures that will prevent you catching the flu.

Who should not take the nasal flu vaccine?

According to the CDC, the use of the nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for

  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • Pregnant women
  • Children below 2 years of age
  • Adults above the age of 50 years

Latest update on the nasal vaccine

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on June 22, 2016, voted that the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) or the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used in the current season of 2016 – 2017.

Notwithstanding this, it continues to recommend the use of the other the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), for everyone 6 months and older.

This recommendation is based on the history of LAIV’s poor effectiveness from 2013 to 2016. The reason for this poor performance is not yet known.