Why should I get the flu shot?

Dr. Peter M. Lefevre, MD

You should get a flu shot because it will significantly reduce the likelihood of contracting the flu. It is especially important for people who are at risk of developing complications such as dehydration and pneumonia, potentially leading to hospitalization or death—as well as for anyone who is going to be in close contact with high-risk individuals.

Because the vaccine is developed about six months in advance based on the best estimates of scientists regarding the strain of influenza that will prevail in the next flu season, the flu shot is never 100 percent effective—but it dramatically lowers the risk and reduces flu symptoms even when full immunity is not conferred.

This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. 

  • While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research suggests will be most common that season.
  • Getting a flu vaccine reduces flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school days due to flu., It also helps prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
  • Vaccinating those at high risk is especially important to decrease the risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people aged 65 years and older.
  • Vaccinating health care workers and others who live with or care for high-risk people helps prevent the spread of flu to these people.
  • Children younger than six months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for infants should be vaccinated instead.

Like most viral diseases, the flu is highly contagious. Unlike the common cold, however, there's a relatively simple and safe way to protect against the flu: a vaccine.

Maybe you think you don't need a vaccine because you're young and healthy and don't work in a daycare center or nursing home. Or maybe you think you shouldn't get a vaccine because you're pregnant.

Unless you had a severe reaction to the flu vaccine in the past or currently have a fever, you should get vaccinated. Even if you're young and healthy, flu vaccination is important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in years when the seasonal flu vaccine is a close match to the circulating viruses, the vaccine can be expected to reduce influenza rates by 70 to 90 percent in healthy adults under 65. One study found that healthy working adults receiving the seasonal flu vaccine had 43 percent fewer sick days from work.

In getting your flu shot, you reduce your risk of heart disease, because you reduce inflammation in your arteries. So, you are actually helping your arteries, which means less impotence, strokes and wrinkling of the skin, as well as heart disease. Perhaps if more people saw it in that light, more would obtain their flu shots. Getting the flu vaccine for the flu makes you about one-third day younger; getting it for health of the arteries makes you about four months younger.

Continue Learning about Vaccine

Hawaii Health Alert: Why You Probably Need the Tdap Shot
Hawaii Health Alert: Why You Probably Need the Tdap Shot
You put in the extra effort to keep your kids and grandkids healthy—you make sure they get nutritious meals, safe toys and regular checkups. But the g...
Read More
How do flu vaccines work?
Univ. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family MedicineUniv. of Nev. School of Medicine, Family Medicine
Flu vaccines (the flu shot and the nasal-spray flu vaccine) cause antibodies to develop in the body....
More Answers
What is the link between the MMR vaccine and autism?
HCA VirginiaHCA Virginia
Some people are concerned that vaccination causes autism. However, there is no scientific evidence l...
More Answers
Dr. Diane Harper - How long do human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines protect against infection?
Dr. Diane Harper - How long do human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines protect against infection?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.