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Flu & Flu Shot FAQs

How effective is the flu shot? Can antivirals stop the flu in its tracks? Check out our FAQs.

A yearly flu shot can greatly reduce your chance of getting the disease, and it helps prevent the spread of flu to family, friends and people in your community. The flu can be serious, leading to hospital stays and, in rare cases, death.

The flu shot is very safe. Most people do not have any side effects after getting a flu shot, but you should contact your doctor if you have questions. In the rare case that you experience an allergic reaction to the flu shot, call 9-1-1. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, eye or lip swelling, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat and dizziness. Children younger than 6 months old should not get the flu shot.

If you have allergies to eggs or other vaccine ingredients, if you have Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) or if you have a moderate to severe illness, talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot.


No, the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The flu shot contains inactive flu viruses or no flu viruses at all. However, you may still experience flu symptoms for a few reasons. But the vaccine needs about two weeks to take full effect. If you are exposed to the virus in this window, you may get the flu. And the flu can develop if the vaccine does not match the type/strand of flu you caught. Also, you can get flu-like symptoms from reactions to the vaccine, or from other illnesses (such as the common cold, which also exists during the flu season).

When the flu shot is administered by an in-network provider, private insurance plans must cover the vaccine without charging a copayment or coinsurance. Under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), insurance plans for children allow them to keep their insurance until age 26. Check with your insurance provider for details on your vaccination coverage.

Medicare will also cover the flu vaccine, and most Medicaid pay for some adult immunizations. Contact your state Medicaid agency with questions. If you do not have health insurance, visit to learn about your options.

Antiviral flu medications work best if they are taken within two days after you get sick. Starting antivirals late can be helpful to people at high risk of complications and can lessen the severity of the illness. Talk to your provider. The three antiviral medications recommended  by the Centers for Disease Control are:

  • Relenza
  • Tamiflu
  • Rapivab