Influenza virus vaccine (Intradermal, Intramuscular)
Generic name: influenza virus vaccine [ in-floo-EN-za-VYE-rus-VAX-een ]
Drug class: Viral vaccines
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on May 23, 2023.
Uses for influenza virus vaccine
Influenza virus vaccine is used to prevent infection by the influenza viruses. The vaccine works by causing your body to produce its own protection (antibodies) against the disease. It is also known as a “flu shot”.
There are many kinds of influenza viruses, but not all will cause problems in any given year. Therefore, before the influenza vaccine is produced each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. and Canadian Public Health Services decide which viruses will most likely cause influenza infections for that year. The antigens, which are substances that cause protective antibodies to be formed, for these viruses are included in the influenza vaccine. Usually, the U.S. and Canada use the same influenza vaccine, however, they are not required to do so.
It is necessary to receive an influenza vaccine injection each year, since influenza infections are usually caused by different kinds of viruses and the protection gained by the vaccine lasts for less than a year.
Influenza is a virus infection of the throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs. It causes fever, chills, cough, headache, muscle aches, and pains in your back, arms, and legs. In addition, adults and children weakened by other diseases or medical conditions, and persons 50 years of age and older, even if they are healthy, may get a much more serious illness that may have to be treated in a hospital. Each year, thousands of people die as a result of an influenza infection.
The best way to help prevent influenza infections is to get an influenza vaccination each year, usually in early November. Immunization (getting a vaccine) against influenza is approved for infants 6 months of age and older, all children, and all adults (including 65 years of age and older).
This vaccine is to be given only by or under the direct supervision of your doctor or other health care professional.
Before using influenza virus vaccine
In deciding to use a vaccine, the risks of taking the vaccine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For this vaccine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of Agriflu®, Flulaval™, Fluzone® High-Dose, Fluzone® Intradermal, or Fluzone® Intradermal Quadrivalent in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of Fluvirin® in children younger than 4 years of age. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of Fluarix® in children younger than 3 years of age. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of Afluria®, Afluria® Quadrivalent, Fluarix® Quadrivalent, Flucelvax® Quadrivalent, Flulaval® Quadrivalent, Fluzone®, or Fluzone® Quadrivalent in children younger than 6 months of age. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of influenza virus vaccine in the elderly.
Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of Fluzone® Intradermal or Fluzone® Intradermal Quadrivalent in the geriatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with Medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving this vaccine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Receiving this vaccine with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Interactions with Food/Tobacco/Alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other Medical Problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of this vaccine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Allergy to eggs, egg products, or chicken proteins, history of—Should not be used in patients with this condition.
- Bleeding problems (eg, hemophilia, thrombocytopenia)—Use with caution. May have an increased risk of bleeding at the injection site.
- Guillain-Barré syndrome (severe nerve and muscle problem), history of—Use with caution. May cause the symptoms of this condition to return.
- Illness with fever, moderate or severe—You may need to wait until you feel better before you receive the vaccine.
- Immune system problems from a disease or medicine—May not work as well in patients with this condition.
- Kanamycin, neomycin, or polymyxin allergy, history of—Only certain brands of the influenza vaccine can be used. Talk with your doctor about this.
Proper use of influenza virus vaccine
A nurse or other trained health professional will give you or your child this vaccine. It is given as a shot into one of your muscles or into your skin, usually in the upper arm.
Sometimes there is not enough flu vaccine for everyone. If this happens and you are a healthy adult, you might need to wait until later in the flu season before getting your vaccination.
You need to get the flu vaccine every year to protect you from the flu.
Some children may need a second dose of the vaccine. If your child needs a second dose of the vaccine, it is very important for your child to receive the second dose on schedule. If you must cancel the appointment, make another appointment as soon as possible.
Fluzone® Intradermal Quadrivalent and Fluzone® Quadrivalent come with a patient information leaflet. Read and follow these instructions carefully. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
Precautions while using influenza virus vaccine
It is very important that your child return to your doctor’s office at the right time if your child needs a second dose of the vaccine. Be sure to notify your doctor of any side effects that occur after you or your child receive this vaccine.
This vaccine may cause a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Tell your doctor right away if you or your child have a rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after receiving the injection.
Children who have received a certain brand of the influenza vaccine (Afluria®, Afluria® Quadrivalent) have developed a fever and in some cases a fever with seizures. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about this.
If you are very sick and have a high fever, you will probably need to wait until you are well before you receive this vaccine.
Influenza virus vaccine may not protect everyone who receives it. It will not also treat flu symptoms if you already have the virus.
The tip cap of the prefilled syringe for certain brands of the injection (Agriflu®, Flucelvax®, Fluvirin®, Fluzone®, Fluzone® High-Dose) contains dry natural rubber (a derivative of latex), which may cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to latex. Tell your doctor if you or your child have a latex allergy before you receive this vaccine.
Tell your doctor if you or your child are using a medicine or treatment that weakens your immune system, including steroid, radiation, or cancer treatment. This vaccine may not work as well if you are also using these treatments. Your doctor may still want you to get the vaccine because it can give you some protection.
Side Effects of influenza virus vaccine
In 1976, a number of people who received the “swine flu” influenza vaccine developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), which is a disease that may cause paralysis. Most of these people were over 25 years of age. Although only 10 out of every one million people who received the vaccine actually developed GBS, this number was 6 times higher than would normally have been expected. Most of the people who got GBS recovered completely.
It is assumed that the “swine flu” virus included in the 1976 vaccine caused the problem, but this has not been proven. Since that time, studies have shown that the risk of acquiring GBS from an influenza vaccine is very low (one out of every million people).
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Bruising, hard lump, redness, or pain at the injection site
- large, flat, blue or purplish patches in the skin
- loss of appetite
- muscle aches
- redness of the eyes
- sore throat
- stuffy or runny nose
- Body aches or pain
- chest tightness
- difficulty with breathing
- ear congestion
- loss of voice
- swelling or puffiness of the face
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- Difficulty with swallowing
- fast heartbeat
- hives, itching, or skin rash
- large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
- noisy breathing
- puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, lips, or tongue
Incidence not known
- back pain, sudden and severe
- back, leg, or stomach pains
- blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
- burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
- burning, dry, or itching eyes
- chest pain
- clumsiness or unsteadiness
- dryness of the throat
- feeling hot
- increased sensitivity of the eyes to sunlight
- inflammation, rash, swelling, or tenderness at the injection site
- pain, redness, soreness, swelling, tenderness, or warmth on the skin
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally, upper chest
- sensation of spinning
- shakiness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
- sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
- sores, welts, or blisters
- stomach pain, soreness, or discomfort
- trouble sleeping
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- voice changes
- weakness of the muscles in your face
- yellowing of the eyes or skin
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- Difficulty in moving
- joint pain
- muscle aches, cramping, pains, or stiffness
- swollen joints
Incidence not known
- Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Frequently asked questions
- What flu vaccine can I use with an egg allergy?
- How and where is a flu shot injection given?
- How well does the flu vaccine work?
- How can I get a flu vaccine without a needle?
- Where can I get the flu vaccine right now?
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