Everyone over 6 months of age should consider the annual flu vaccine to keep from getting and spreading the flu.
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.
With rare exception, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all persons aged 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccination. Different flu shots are approved for people of different ages. Everyone should get a vaccine that is appropriate for their age. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk for serious flu complications.
Why get a flu shot
Millions of people get the flu every year. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risks of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and flu-related deaths 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.
There are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses that research suggests will be most common in a given year.
For more information, read Who Should Do It, Who Should Not, and Who Should Take Precautions.
Types of Flu Vaccine
The 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.
- You can find out more about the viruses that the 2019-2020 flu vaccines will protect against.
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
The flu vaccine is widely available from September through 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.
Flu season lasts from November until April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March.
Where to get a flu shot in Seattle
There are many options available for obtaining a flu shot in the Seattle area. Many local pharmacies and health centers offer the seasonal influenza vaccine, including:
- Bartell Drugs Flu information
- Costco Pharmacy immunization information
- Country Doctor Community Health Centers
- Fred Meyer Flu information
- MultiCare flu shot locations
- NeighborCare Health clinics vaccinations
- PolyClinic walk-in flu clinics
- Sea-Mar Community Health Centers
- Free flu shots for veterans at all VA Puget Sound locations
In addition, many national grocery and drug store chains offer influenza vaccine, including: QFC/Kroger, Rite Aid, Safeway, Target, and Walgreens.
For more information about the flu or to locate flu vaccine in your zip code, visit the Seattle & King County Public Health immunization program website. There are flu fact sheets in several languages.
Discount and free flu shots
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 stores and pharmacies offer in-store discounts and coupons on merchandise to encourage you to get a flu shot.
For those who don’t have insurance or can’t afford to pay, contact the Community Health Access Program (CHAP), a telephone assistance program serving King County residents by connecting them to health insurance, health care services and other resources. CHAP services are free and confidential. Call for help at 1-800-756-5437 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. CHAP can refer you to a Public Health or Community Health clinic for immunizations on a sliding fee based on your family income.