Who Should Not Get a Flu Shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pretty much everyone get a flu shot. However, there are certain groups of people that really shouldn't get the flu vaccine, or who at least need to discuss the pros and cons with their healthcare providers. For these people, the vaccine may pose more risks than it's worth. It may even be life-threatening.

Given the fact that the flu shot is the most effective method of preventing infection, it's important to know if you truly fall into a group for which the vaccination is not advised.

Contraindications

The following individuals should not get a flu shot:

  • Children younger than 6 months old
  • Those who have had a previous life-threatening allergic reaction to the flu vaccine or its components (such as gelatin or antibiotics)
  • Anyone with a very high fever or was recently admitted to the hospital at the time of vaccination

If you have any of the following conditions or circumstances, discuss the pros and cons of the flu vaccine with your healthcare provider before you get it:

Also be sure to tell your doctor if you are feeling ill at the time of your flu shot appointment and what symptoms you have. Postponing your vaccination may be advised.

The flu vaccine is considered safe for pretty much everyone else, but if you have concerns or questions, discuss your options with your healthcare provider.

Why Flu Shots Are Important

We also have in-depth articles about why flu shots are important for certain high-risk individuals. If you have any of the following concerns, be sure to read up on how and why the flu vaccine is important for you.

Choosing Not to Vaccinate

While some people are medically advised not to get a flu shot, others choose not to get one for personal reasons such as a fear of needles, religious beliefs, or unfounded concerns over ingredients like thimerosal. Some opt not to get a flu vaccine simply because they believe "they never get sick."

It is true that flu vaccines do not provide 100% protection from the flu for everyone that gets one. Most years, the flu vaccine is 40% to 60% effective. Still, despite their relatively low prevention rate, they are still the best option to protect yourself from the flu.

Remember, too, that getting the flu vaccine also helps protect those around you, which is especially important for individuals at high risk of complications and those for whom, as mentioned above, a flu shot is contraindicated.

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

If you are unable to get a flu shot (and even if you are), double-down on other prevention strategies that can go a long way in helping you stay well:

  • Wash your hands: Other than getting a flu vaccine, washing your hands frequently is the single most effective thing you can do to prevent the flu and stay healthy. Make sure you are doing it properly, so you get the full benefit and actually get the germs off your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face as much as possible: If you touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth after you have touched anything that has germs on it (doorknob, computer keyboard, phone, another person, etc.), you are introducing those germs into your body.
  • Steer clear of sick people: As much is realistic, keep your distance if someone around you is exhibiting symptoms of a cold or the flu.

If you do notice symptoms that you think could be caused by influenza, talk to your doctor right away—especially if you are at high risk for complications from the flu or you live with someone who is. Antiviral medications can be prescribed to reduce the severity of your symptoms and the duration of your illness, as well as reduce the chance that you pass it to someone else.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Should and Who Should NOT get a Flu Vaccine. Updated October 11, 2019.

  2. Doyle JD, Chung JR, Kim SS, et al. Interim Estimates of 2018-19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness - United States, February 2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68(6):135-139. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6806a2

  3. Liu M, Ou J, Zhang L, et al. Protective Effect of Hand-Washing and Good Hygienic Habits Against Seasonal Influenza: A Case-Control Study. Medicine. 2016;95(11):e3046. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000003046

  4. Principi N, Camilloni B, Alunno A, Polinori I, Argentiero A, Esposito S. Drugs for Influenza Treatment: Is There Significant News? Front Med. 2019;6:109. doi:10.3389/fmed.2019.00109

Additional Reading