What is a Flu Vaccine?

The flu  – or influenza – is a potentially serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Flu season occurs during the early winter, winter and early spring months. While each flu season's severity is different, getting your flu vaccine annually can help protect you from serious complications related to the flu.

Flu vaccines are an affordable preventive care tool and are usually given at low or no cost to patients. 

Why is a flu vaccine done? 

Getting a flu vaccine helps your body build immunity against the current year’s influenza virus strain. Your chances of getting the flu – especially a severe case – are markedly reduced because of this immunity.

Getting a flu vaccine can help:

  • Prevent you from getting sick.
  • Limit your risk of needing to be hospitalized from complications from the flu. 
  • Boost your body’s immunity to flu. This could make the symptoms you experience milder if you do end up getting sick.

It is recommended that you get your flu shot each year during the month of October to build up your immune system before flu season is in full swing. However, for those who haven’t received a flu shot yet, it is still effective to get at any time in the flu season and can still provide some protection. 

What can I expect from a flu vaccine?

You can get your flu shot from your primary care doctor’s office or at a health clinic. Wear a short-sleeved shirt so the health care worker administering the vaccine can easily access your arm.

Getting a flu shot is similar to getting any other vaccine by injection. You will feel a moment of pain from the needle entering your skin, and perhaps a stinging sensation as the vaccine enters your body from the syringe. 

Your arm may be slightly sore after the vaccine and the injection site might be a little red. Some people may experience body aches or a low-grade fever. Move your arm regularly to help reduce soreness. It typically takes about two weeks after receiving the flu vaccine for your body to create immunity against the flu.
The entire process only takes a few seconds. The health care worker will place a bandage over the injection site to stop any bleeding.

If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, please call your primary care provider. 

Does the flu vaccine have side effects? 

Like most medical procedures, the flu vaccine does have potential side effects. Although often mild, common side effects from the flu shot include:

  • Soreness or swelling in the area around the shot
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea 
  • Pain or aches in your muscles

What happens after a flu vaccine?

You can return to your normal daily activities immediately. You may feel some soreness in the arm of your injection for one or two days following your flu vaccine. Keeping your arm moving can help reduce soreness.

How long does the flu vaccine last? 

Results from getting your flu shot vary, but generally the flu shot protects from influenza for about six months. The level of protection declines over time, depending on the strain of influenza. 

Will the flu vaccine protect against COVID-19?

The flu vaccine does not protect you from contracting COVID-19, but it can reduce the risk of illness and hospitalization due to severe complications from the flu. The flu season and the virus that causes COVID-19 will hit simultaneously, so it’s essential to reduce your risk of the flu and reduce the burden on the health system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What if I’ve had COVID-19, is it safe to get the flu shot?

It’s a good idea to talk to your primary care physician - who knows your medical history – to get a recommendation on how to receive your flu shot. If you’ve had COVID-19 and you are now out of quarantine and asymptomatic, it is generally safe for you to receive the influenza vaccine.

Get your flu vaccine

Contact your primary care provider’s office for your annual flu vaccine. You can find a provider here.

Find a list of Mercy Health flu clinics and no-appointment flu vaccine locations here

Find a primary care doctor nearby

Mercy Health locations that can treat you