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Learn how National Influenza Vaccination Week is working to stop the spread of a serious, contagious disease

These days, it seems that there’s a day, a week, or a month to celebrate just about everything from Jazz Appreciation Month (April) to Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19). That makes it hard to keep up with everything that’s going on, so sometimes important awareness campaigns fall through the cracks, like National Influenza Vaccination Week. To help you out, we’ve laid out some of the biggest key points that you need to know

What Should You Know About Flu Vaccinations?

Influenza, or the flu, behaves differently every season, and your immune response to the vaccination fades over time, which is why there is always a new vaccination going around. The flu is a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization or even death, and it is also contagious, so if you get the flu, you run the risk of spreading it to your family, friends, coworkers, and anyone else you come into contact with. Flu season generally runs from about October to May, peaking in January and February, so most people get their vaccinations by October. Vaccination Week is always scheduled early in December to help urge on the procrastinators (December 6-12 in 2015).

The vaccine will give you antibodies about two weeks after you take it, which provide protection if you are exposed to the actual virus. You can get vaccinated at most doctors’s; offices, clinics, and health departments. You can even sometimes get them in your pharmacy, school, or your place of employment. When you get the shot, you may have a few symptoms for a day or two, like soreness where you got the shot or aches or a low-grade fever. It is important to remember, however, that you cannot get the flu from the vaccination.<

Who Needs to be Vaccinated?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that if you are aged 6 months or older, you should get influenza immunization every year unless you have allergies to the vaccine or any of its ingredients or if you have ever had a rare illness known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Talk to your doctor if either of these may apply to you. Otherwise, there are different flu shots available to you depending on your age group. You may also be able to get the vaccination in nasal spray form, but there are additional restrictions on who may safely take this vaccination. Vaccination is especially important for pregnant women, people over 65, and anyone with a compromised immune system.

What Can You Do to Help?

The CDC has a section of its website devoted to National Influenza Vaccination Week (<strong>www.cdc.gov/flu/nivw/</strong>). This is where you can find their suggestions on how you can participate in this campaign. One of the ways they’re urging people to help is to help raise awareness by tagging post-vaccination selfies and posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube with #VaxWithMe. The CDC is compiling these posts on an interactive timeline to encourage others to get their own vaccinations. With any luck, we might even be able to get that #VaxWithMe hashtag trending, and that might get the word out to some social media users who wouldn’t otherwise know about this event. Awareness is key, because the more people there are in a population who get flu shots, the slower the disease spreads.

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