The flu is a nasty bug. Not just because it’s implicated in more than 20,000 deaths per year. Not just because it results in about 200,000 hospitalizations per year. Not just because it can make you feel just awful when you catch it. But because every year it comes back, slightly different than it was last year.

Get your flu shot every year

Usually, when people get an immunization they’re protected for their entire lives against a disease. This is because the immunization teaches their body to fight against that particular disease. Flu is different because it’s constantly changing. Which is why every year we need a new flu shot, so we can teach our bodies to fight back against this year’s flu virus.

What is the flu shot?

The flu shot is given by syringe. There used to be the nasal vaccine that was given to kids, but doctors found that vaccine wasn’t working as well as they hoped, so they no longer approve to give it out.

Inside the vaccine, there are microscopic pieces of dead flu virus. This means you can’t catch the flu from the shot. It’s already dead, and there’s no zombie flu virus (despite what the movies say). Your body sees those pieces of flu and learns that if they ever see those things again to attack them. That’s why some people might get a slight fever or not feel 100% after getting the flu shot. When that happens, it’s because their body is practicing how to fight the flu virus.

Who needs the flu shot?

Basically, everyone. There’s a whole list of people who should definitely get the flu shot every year, but it’s easier to just say that everyone over 6 months of age should get one every year.

Where can you get a flu shot?

Lots of places! The very best places are at your regular doctor or pediatrician’s office. Plenty of pharmacies have them, too. If you are 19 or older and don’t have health insurance, you can get a flu shot for free at a City health center. The health centers have walk-in hours when you can get a flu shot without making an appointment.