Flu FAQs

Influenza, or flu, is a viral infection of the nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs that can make someone of any age ill.

  • Flu season in the United States is generally from about October through the end of March.

  • The influenza (flu) vaccine is a benefit for all Vanderbilt University and Medical Center faculty and staff. Yearly flu vaccination helps to reduce sick time, medical costs and the spread of flu in the community. The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated. We encourage everyone to be vaccinated to protect themselves, and to reduce the risk that you could spread flu to others, such as patients, coworkers and family members.

    This year Vanderbilt offers quadrivalent influenza vaccines for all employees. The quadrivalent flu vaccine is designed to protect against four different flu viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

    Please note that due to low effectiveness, we will not offer Flu Mist this year.

    Flu vaccines offered by Occupational Health

    Type Who qualifies Where to get it
    Regular Quadrivalent Inactivated Vaccine (QIV)1 Anyone over 6 months Flulapalooza, OHC, any OHC event, or Peer Vaccination Program
    Egg-free vaccine2 People with a previous allergic reaction to the flu vaccine

    Flulapalooza, OHC, or OHC on-site events at One Hundred Oaks (subject to supply availability)

    65 or older vaccine (Quadrivalent inactivated)3 ​People age 65 and older

    Flulapalooza, OHC, or OHC on-site events at One Hundred Oaks (subject to supply availability)

    1Most of our QIV is latex-free and thimerosal-free.

    2The egg-free vaccine is a quadrivalent influenza vaccine that is FDA approved for people ages 2 and up. It does not use chicken eggs in its manufacturing process so it is safe for people with a life-threatening egg allergy.

    3An egg-based adjuvanted flu shot (Fluad Quadrivalent), which is approved for people 65 years and older. This vaccine is made with an adjuvant (an ingredient that helps create a stronger immune response).

  • Typical symptoms are fever, chills, cough, sore throat, headache, runny or stuffy nose, and soreness and aching in your back, arms and legs.

  • Although most people are ill for only a few days, some people have a much more serious illness that could even result in a hospital visit.

  • The flu vaccine is mandatory for all VUMC employees.

    Anyone wishing to reduce their chances of catching the flu should get the vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive an annual flu vaccine, with rare exceptions.

  • Anyone with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine. People with severe egg allergies can now take an egg-free flu vaccine. Those concerned about reactions to preservatives should know that all vaccines are preservative free.  Persons who are ill and have a fever should wait to take the shot until the fever or other symptoms are gone.

    Some people with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome should not get this vaccine; talk to your health care provider first.

  • Because influenza viruses frequently change and because any immunity developed in the previous year possibly decreases, it is recommended that you receive the vaccination every year.

  • No. Since all viruses in the injectable vaccine are killed, this type of vaccine cannot infect anyone.

  • The vaccine will begin to work about one to two weeks after you receive the vaccine.

  • Flu vaccine lowers your risk of getting the flu by 60%. You could still get the flu, but you are less likely to have complications or die.

  • No. Influenza is far more dangerous. It's a disease of the lungs that can lead to pneumonia. Each year about 114,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized. Those most severely affected are children under 2 and adults over 65.

  • Very few! The worst side effect you're likely to get is a sore arm. The risk of a rare allergic reaction is far less than the risk of severe complications from influenza. Flu shots do not cause cold symptoms.

  • Yes! Flu shots are recommended for pregnant women, especially those in their second and third trimesters because of the risk of influenza, which could complicate pregnancy. The flu shot given during pregnancy has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby for several months after birth from flu.

  • ​For guidance on treatment and work status, you can direct employees to use the flu tool. As a rule of thumb, if they have a fever (over 100.4F) and respiratory symptoms, they should not be at work.

  • ​When they have had no fever for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicine.

  • Testing for flu is not necessary for the outpatient management of flu-like illness but employees should be tested for COVID-19 to rule that out. The guidelines for working with flu-like illness apply whether the virus is proven to be influenza or not. There are many other respiratory viruses that can cause influenza like illness.

  • ​Treatment decisions should be between the employee and his/her healthcare provider. Antiviral treatment is only recommended for people at high risk of flu complications for hospitalization. In studies, antiviral treatment only shortens the duration of the illness by about 1/2 day.

  • We do encourage patients to contact their Primary Care Provider's office first, whenever feasible. Often their PCP can see them or advise them over the phone. Occupational Health offers walk-in visits at our Faculty/Staff Express Care, 7:30am – 4:00pm, M-F, and we also see employees for scheduled sick visits at our main clinic at 640 Medical Arts during our regular office hours of 7:00 am to 4:30 pm M-F. Employees can call 615-936-0955 for assistance.

  • No, sick notes are not required under VUMC policy. Sick notes do not erase an occurrence.