There are many options available for obtaining a flu shot in the Seattle area. Everyone over 6 months of age should consider the annual flu vaccine to keep from getting and spreading the flu. Flu vaccine provides protection against current strains of influenza, including the H1N1 strain that caused the illness in 2009 and other flu viruses that caused illness the previous season.
Influenza spreads readily from person to person in schools, workplaces and homes. People should get vaccinated in fall, as soon as the vaccine is available from their healthcare provider or pharmacy.
Why get a flu shot
Millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized, and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year.
An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children.
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
For more information, see Who Should Do It, Who Should Not and Who Should Take Precautions.
Types of Flu Vaccine
The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) follows an internationally accepted naming convention for influenza viruses. This convention was accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1979.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.
There are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D. Human influenza A and B viruses cause the seasonal epidemics of flu almost every winter in the United States. Influenza type C infections generally cause a mild respiratory illness and are not thought to cause epidemics. Influenza D viruses primarily affect cattle and are not known to infect or cause illness in people.
- Influenza A viruses are divided into subtypes: the hemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N). There are 18 different hemagglutinin subtypes and 11 different neuraminidase subtypes. (H1 through H18 and N1 through N11.) Influenza A viruses can be further broken down into different subtypes, such as H1N1 and H3N2.
- Influenza B viruses are not divided into subtypes, but can be further broken down into lineages and strains. Currently circulating influenza B viruses belong to one of two lineages: B/Yamagata and B/Victoria.
There are generally two types of flu vaccine offered, but there are also variations on these types:
- Traditional flu vaccines (called “trivalent” vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. Most flu shots are given in the arm (muscle) with a needle. One trivalent vaccine formulation can be given with a jet injector, for persons aged 18 through 64 years. A high-dose trivalent shot is approved for people 65 and older.
- There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines), which include the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus. Quadrivalent flu shots are approved for use in different age groups, including children as young as 6 months and pregnant women (new this season).
Be sure to ask about the different types of available flu shot when you make an appointment or visit a healthcare provider for a flu vaccine this season.
When to get a flu shot
Flu season lasts from November until April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March. The flu vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November.
The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. However, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial, even into January or later. Protection lasts through one flu season.
For children who need two doses of vaccine to be protected, vaccination should start in September or as soon as the vaccine becomes available, because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.
Where to get a flu shot in Seattle
Many local pharmacies and several grocery store chains offer the seasonal influenza vaccine Rite Aid, Walgreens, QFC, Safeway, Target, and other local businesses such as:
Many insurance plans will cover flu vaccine shots. While most providers will bill your plan directly, be sure to ask about the billing method before getting vaccinated. Some pharmacies and stores offer in-store discounts and coupons on merchandise to encourage you to get a flu shot.
For more information about the flu or to locate flu vaccine in your zip code, visit the Seattle & King County Public Health website. They provide facts about the flu and a flu vaccine locator by entering your zip code. There are also flu fact sheets in several languages: Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Somali, and Vietnamese.
For those who don’t have insurance or can’t afford to pay, contact the Community Health Access Program (CHAP) at 206-284-0331 or 1-800-756-5437. CHAP can refer you to a Public Health or Community Health clinic for immunizations on a sliding fee based on your family income.