for Veterans and the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should you get a flu shot?
Yes, flu shots are worth getting. People infected with HIV who receive flu vaccinations are less likely to get the flu, and when they do, their symptoms are less serious. There is no evidence that flu vaccination has any long-term effect on HIV viral load or CD4 cell count.
A combined influenza vaccination is available that is intended to protect against two kinds of flu: seasonal and pandemic (also known as H1N1 or "swine" flu). The seasonal flu vaccine is produced every year based on 3 flu strains seen the previous year. The H1N1 flu vaccine is directed at the H1N1 strain, a strain of flu that has been circulating since 2009. The H1N1 vaccine is made in the same way as the regular seasonal flu shot, and it has been as safe and as well-tolerated.
It is recommended that HIV-infected people receive flu vaccination, as they may be at higher risk of developing serious flu and related complications. Flu vaccination should be repeated every year, as the strain of seasonal influenza infecting people changes every year.
People with HIV infection should receive the flu shot rather than the nasal spray. The shot does not contain live flu virus whereas the nasal spray contains flu virus that is alive but weakened. It is not recommended that HIV-infected people (particularly those with CD4 (T-cell) counts <200 cells/mm3) receive the nasal spray, since people with vulnerable immune systems may have a higher risk of complications from the nasal spray. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. You should tell your doctor if you are allergic to eggs or have had a bad reaction to other vaccinations in the past before you receive the flu shot.