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What are vaccines?

Vaccines are medicines that prevent you from getting sick. There are many different kinds of vaccines. Each one prevents a different infection. If you get vaccinated for an infection, you’re protected from getting that infection. Getting vaccinated can also help protect the people around you from getting that infection. Vaccines help keep you, your loved ones, and your community healthy.

Who needs vaccines?

Everyone needs vaccines, from babies to older adults. Which vaccines you should get depend on your age, which vaccines you’ve already gotten, your lifestyle, and other factors. Your nurse or doctor can talk with you about which vaccines make the most sense for you.

Can vaccines cause the infections they’re protecting against?

Vaccines don’t cause infections. For example, it’s not possible to get the flu from the flu shot. That’s because the flu vaccine, like other vaccines, doesn’t have the flu virus in it.

What vaccines should I get?

Your nurse or doctor can talk with you about the best vaccines for you. Some common vaccines for adults are:

  • Influenza vaccine (flu shot) – yearly vaccine that protects against the flu.
  • Shingles vaccine – for healthy adults 50 years and older. You need 2 doses, with 2 to 6 months between each shot.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine – for all adults over the age of 65. Some adults younger than 65 who have certain health problems may also need this vaccine.

Talk with your nurse or doctor to make sure that you’re up to date on the vaccines most people get when they’re younger, as well as boosters (extra doses of a vaccine given after the original dose). These vaccines include the Tdap vaccine (for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis AKA whooping cough), hepatitis A and B, HPV, and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

What vaccines do pregnant people need?

Some vaccines are important to get before you get pregnant, while you need to get other vaccines during your pregnancy. The MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella) is important to get at least 1 month before you get pregnant. You may also need the hepatitis B vaccine.

Vaccines like the flu shot and the Tdap vaccine (for whooping cough) can help protect both you and your fetus if you get them while you’re pregnant.

If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk with your nurse or doctor about which vaccines you need to get.

Do I need to get the flu shot?

The flu shot is recommended for everyone over 6 months old. Some people, like young kids, older adults, and people with diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, are more likely to have serious problems from the flu (like pneumonia or other serious infections), so it’s even more important that they get a flu shot every year. It’s also important to get a flu shot if someone you spend  time with has a serious medical problem or a new baby at home.

People who are pregnant or people who are planning to be pregnant during flu season (October-February) also need the flu shot. People who are pregnant are more likely to have serious problems from the flu than non-pregnant people, and the flu can be really harmful to a fetus.

Is the flu shot safe?

The flu vaccine is very safe. Some people have mild side effects from the flu vaccine, including soreness where they got the shot, redness, or a mild fever. These reactions usually only last for 1-2 days and are not the same thing as the flu.

There are a few very rare risks of the flu shot. One is called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which is a condition in which your immune system attacks your body’s nerves. There is also a very small risk of an allergic reaction to any vaccine. If you have allergies, ask your nurse or doctor if there is anything you may be allergic to in the vaccine.

Where can I get the flu shot?

You can get the flu shot at your doctor’s office, a community health clinic, a pharmacy, or your local health department. You may also be able to get a flu shot at your local Planned Parenthood health center.

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