Ask The Expert: The Flu Vaccine


Ken Schmader, MD

Kenneth Schmader, MD

Professor of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics at Duke University School of Medicine

Q. What is the flu vaccine?

A. The influenza vaccine is also known as the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine can protect you from getting the flu. The flu is a respiratory illness, which means that it affects the lungs. The flu virus can also infect the nose and throat. It is contagious, which means that the flu virus spreads easily between people. The flu vaccine helps prevent spreading the flu.

Q. What are the benefits of flu vaccination?

A. First, the flu vaccine can prevent you from getting the flu. It can also help prevent serious illness if you do get the flu. Lastly, by preventing the flu, flu vaccination prevents worsening of chronic health conditions.

Q. Are flu vaccines safe?

A. Flu vaccines have a good safety record. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years, and there has been extensive research supporting the safety of flu vaccines.

Q. Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?

A. No, the flu vaccine cannot cause flu. The flu vaccine does not contain the live virus. This means that a flu vaccine cannot make you sick with the flu.

Q. Do flu vaccines cause any side effects?

A. Like any medical product, vaccines can cause side effects. Side effects of the flu vaccine are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days. Common side effects from the flu shot include:

  • Soreness, redness, and/or swelling from the shot

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Muscle aches

Q. Should I still get the flu shot even if I have not had the flu before?

A. Yes. You are lucky if you have not had the flu before, but that doesn’t mean you are not at risk of getting it in the future. In addition, getting vaccinated may also protect people around you.

Q. When is the best time of year to get the flu shot?

A. It is best to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in your community. September and October are generally good times to get the flu shot. Older adults should generally not get vaccinated early (in July or August) because protection may decrease over time.

Q. Where can I get the flu shot?

Ask your primary care clinician if they can give you the flu shot. Your primary care clinician is a doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or certified nurse specialist who you visit when you are sick or for your overall health care.  Many pharmacies can give you the flu shot as well.

Q. Can I get the flu shot at the same time as my COVID vaccine or booster?

A. Yes, you can get a flu shot at the same time you get a COVID-19 vaccine, including a COVID-19 booster shot.


Last Updated October 2022

Back To Top