The kids are back in school and where you live it still might feel like summer but the 2014-2015 flu shot vaccine is making it’s first appearances across the country. Here’s everything you need to know about the 2014-2015 flu shot vaccine.

***2014-2015 Flu Vaccine Update 12/5/2014


On December 3rd, 2014 the Centers For Disease Control released a statement with the following information about the 2014-2015 flu vaccine:

“Influenza viral characterization data indicates that 48% of the influenza A (H3N2) viruses collected and analyzed in the United States from October 1 through November 22, 2014 were antigenically “like” the 2014-2015 influenza A (H3N2) vaccine component, but that 52% were antigenically different (drifted) from the H3N2 vaccine virus. In past seasons during which predominant circulating influenza viruses have been antigenically drifted, decreased vaccine effectiveness has been observed. However, vaccination has been found to provide some protection against drifted viruses. Though reduced, this cross-protection might reduce the likelihood of severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death. In addition, vaccination will offer protection against circulating influenza strains that have not undergone significant antigenic drift from the vaccine viruses (such as influenza A (H1N1) and B viruses).”

In short, so far what’s panning out across the country this year in terms of flu viruses, are different than what’s contained the 2014-2015 flu vaccine. In other words, the virus has mutated and the only way that this years flu vaccine will offer you any sort of protection, is if you’re up against an older flu strain. For more information about the 2014-2015 flu vaccine, please read below.

What The 2014-2015 Flu Shot Protects Against

Each year in the late spring, the world’s leading health experts get together and come up with their predictions for what they think will be the most common flu viruses. Out of hundreds of different flu strains each year it gets narrowed down to just three to four to be contained in the flu shot. This year there has been no change from the 2013-2014 flu vaccine.

What The 2014-2015 Flu Shot Protects Against:

1. An Influenza A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) like virus
2. An Influenza A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2) like virus
3. An Inluenza B/Massachusetts/2/2012 like virus

Most flu vaccines guard against three strains of influenza, however, some contain four strains. For the 2014-2015 flu shots that contain four strains of the flu they will also include:

An Influenza B/Brisbane/60/2008 like virus

That’s the skinny on what this year’s flu shot has to offer. Below are some common questions in regards to the flu shot.

Does The 2014-2015 Flu Shot Have Mercury?

Some sites out there on the internet will tell you that all flu vaccines contain mercury. The truth: only multi-dose vials for the flu vaccine contain mercury. Multi-dose vials contain more than just one dose of the flu vaccine and mercury is used to help keep the vaccine from being infected with bacteria. So, unless you’re getting a flu shot from a multi-dose vial, your 2014-2015 flu vaccine will not contain mercury.

For those multi-dose vials that do contain mercury, the max mercury content contained is 25µg for each dose. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the minimum lethal dose of mercury is 20-60mg/kg. The 2014-2015 flu shot multi-dose vials contain nowhere near that amount. From my experience in healthcare, multi-dose vials are not even used that often, so if mercury is you’re concern, make sure you’re getting your flu vaccine from a single-dose vial. For a full list of approved 2014-2015 flu vaccines and their mercury contents, read the CDC Information Sheet.

The 2014-2015 Flu Shot and Egg Allergies

The majority of flu vaccines are created and cultivated in eggs. Because of that, it’s important for anyone who has an egg allergy to find out of thier 2014-2015 flu shot contains egg protein. However, it’s a myth out there on the internet that all flu shots contain egg. As of 2013 there is a flu shot out there that was not created in eggs and is egg free. The egg free vaccine is known as Flublok and is available for the 2014-2015 flu season. Ask your provider about it if receiving a flu shot is something you’re interested in. Note: Flublok is also mercury and formaldahyde free. Flublok is only available for those 18-49 years of age.

Difference Between The Flu Shot And The Flu Nasal Spray

If receiving a needle poke isn’t your thing, the flu vaccination also comes in the form of nasal spray. The difference is small. Here’s how it goes: in the flu shot the vaccine is inactivated using formaldehyde. In the flu nasal spray vaccine the vaccine is attenuated. This means that the virus is still alive but weakened. The CDC claims that this attenuated vaccine will not cause the flu. The CDC also claims that the nasal spray is conditioned to only be able to cause minor infections in the colder areas of your nose and can not cause infections in the warmer parts of your body like your lungs. For a list of common flu nasal spray side effects compared to the flu shot side effects, see below.

Common Flu Shot Side Effects

From The Shot:
1. Soreness, redness, or swelling from the injection site
2. Low grade fever
3. Aches

From The Nasal Spray:
1. Runny nose
2. Headache
3. Wheezing
4. Vomiting
5. Muscle Aches
6. Fever
7. Sore throat
8. Cough

The CDC states that if these symptoms do happen, they will most likely be mild and short lived. Those that feel that they have been injured or have had a severe allergic reaction can file for compensation through the CDC as well.

Who Should Get The Flu Shot?

There’s big money behind the flu shot. It’s up to the point that now the CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months or older should be vaccinated each year, with rare exceptions. For times that there happens to be a flu vaccine shortage they recommend that the flu shot be given to the following (updated for the 2014-2015 flu season):

1. All children aged 6 through 59 months
2. All persons age 50 and older
3. Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary (including asthma) or cardiovascular (except isolated hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurological, hematolgic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes).
4. Persons who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV).
5. Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season
6. Children and adolescents (ages 6 months to 18 years) who are receiving long term-aspirin therapy and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye’s syndrome after influenza virus infection
7. Residents of nursing homes and other long term care facilities
8. American Indians/Alaska Natives
9. Anyone obese with a BMI of 40 or greater
10. Healthcare personell
11. Aare household contacts and caregivers of children aged younger than 5 years and adults aged 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children aged younger than 6 months; and
12. Are household contacts and caregivers of persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.

Who Shouldn’t Get The Flu Vaccine

The CDC currently recomments that the following groups abstain from receiving the flu shot:

General Population Groups:

1. People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to influenza vaccine
2. People with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine
3. People who are moderately or severely ill with or without fever should usually wait until they recover before getting flu vaccine. If you are ill, talk to your doctor about whether to reschedule the vaccination. People with a mild illness can usually get the vaccine

These Groups Should Avoid Certain Flu Shots:

1. People under 65 years of age should not receive the high-dose flu shot
2. People who are under 18 years old or over 64 years old should not receive the intradermal flu shot

These Groups Should Not Receive The Nasal Influenza Vaccine:

1. Children younger than 2 years
2. Adults 50 years and older
People with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or to a previous dose of any influenza vaccine
3. People with asthma
4. Children or adolescents on long-term aspirin treatment.
5. Children and adults who have chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular (except isolated hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurologic/neuromuscular, hematologic, or metabolic disorders
6. Children and adults who have immunosuppression (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by HIV)
7. Pregnant women

Influenza Flu Shot Ingredients

The problem with keeping track of the ingredient list of flu vaccines is that each company based off the way that they specifically make the vaccine can add their own ingredients. Vaccine ingredients can also change from year to year. If you’re interested in seeing the ingredients of a specific flu vaccine, please check the influenza vaccine insert of the one being offered to you. As a general rule of thumb the CDC does list several common ingredients:

In addition to those listed ingredients, the Institute For Vaccine Safety through the John Hopkins Bloomberg School Of Public Health does list ingredients for several flu shot makers here

So far the best resource that I’ve found for flu ingredients is put out by the Minnesota Department of Health. They list the ingredient list of approved flu vaccines (Note: This list was developed from the 2013-2014 flu vaccine however, there are many similar ingredients and the 2014-2014 flu shot contains the same strains as the previous year – however, this list should be used with caution and for full ingredients, refer to your institution’s 2014-2014 flu vaccine insert):

Ingredient Vaccine Brand Ingredient Vaccine Brand
Egg Albumin Fluarix, FluLaval Octyphenol ethoxylate Fluzone
Arginine Flumist Phosphate buffers (disodium monosodium, potassium, sodium dihydrogenphosphate) Afluria, Fluarix, FluMist, Fluzone, Fluvirin, FluLaval, Flucelvax, Flublok
Beta-propeolactone Fluvirin, Afluria Polyethylene glycol Flublok
Calcium chloride Afluria Polymyxin-B Afluria, Fluvirin
Egg protein Fluzone, FluMist, Fluvirin, Fluarix, Afluria, FluLaval Polyoxyethylene 9-10 nonylphenol Fluvirin
Formaldehyde Fluzone, Fluarix, FluLaval Polysorbate 80 or Polysorbate 20 Fluarix, Flublok
Gelatin Fluzone (only in Fluzone trivalent), FluMist Sodium chloride Afluria, Fluarix, FluLaval
Gentamicin Fluarix, FluMist Potassium chloride Afluria
Hydrocortisone Fluarix Sodium deoxycholate Afluria, Fluarix, FluLaval
Latex Fluarix in syringe presentation, Fluvirin in syringe presentation, Flucelvax Sucrose FluMist, Fluzone, Fluarix
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) FluMist Thimerosal (Mercury) Afluria, Fluzone, and Fluvirin in multidose vials, FluLaval
Neomycin Afluria, Fluvirin Tocopheryl hydrogen succinate Fluarix, FluLaval
Octoxynol-10 Fluarix

Influenza Vaccine Ingredients And Their Uses

Here is a list of common flu vaccine ingredients:

Ingredient Uses Ingredient Uses
Egg albumin Type of protein found in egg that the vaccine is grown in. Octyphenol ethoxylate Surfactant used to bring two different compounds together. Commonly used in cleaning agents and textile manufacturing.
Arginine A common protein found in the body. Phosphate Buffers (disodium, monosodium, potassium, sodium dihydrogenphosphate) Formed from phosphorus (naturally found in diet and body)and used to maintain pH levels.
Beta-propeiolactone Used as a disinfectant to maintain sterility. Considered a carcinogen. Polyethelyne Glycol A synthetic resin used as a solvent.
Calcium chloride A simple mineral salt used to help control temperature. Polymyxin B Antibiotic used to prevent bacterial growth.
Egg protein Self-explanatory. Polyoxyethylene9-10 nonylphenol Surfactant used to blend compounds.
Formaldehyde Common precursor to make resins in the textile industry. Used to inactivate live viruses. Considered a carcinogen. Polysorbate 80 or Polysorbate 20 Surfactant and emulsifier used to bring compounds together.
Gelatin Gelling agent. Commonly found in animal byproducts like the hoofs of horses. Potassium chloride Salt normally found in the body.
Gentamicin Antibiotic used to prevent bacterial growth. Sodium chloride Salt compound normally found in the body.
Hydrocortisone A steroid commonly used to treat skin irritation. Sodium deoxycholate Bile acid used as an emulsifier to bring compounds together.
Latex Found in the top of the vaccine where the needle punctures. It's a rubber. Sucrose Sugar.
Monosodium Glutamate MSG - a compound people are advised to stay away from in packaged food. Used to help stabilize the vaccine when it's exposed to light, heat, acidity, or humidity. Thimersol (Mercury) Toxic metal used to prevent contamination in multi-dose vials.
Neomycin Antibiotic used to prevent bacterial growth. Tocopheryl hydrogen succinate A form of vitamin E used to prevent oxidation.
Octoxynol-10 Used as an emulsifier/surfactant/detergent.

My Personal Disclaimer About Flu Shots:

I do not get the flu shot. As part of my profession of being an ER nurse in a major hospital in San Diego the staff is required to receive a flu shot or wear a face mask during the flu season from the dates of October 15 to March 31. I opt to wear the mask. I know I’m not the only nurse doing so. Hopefully you can use this information to help you make a more informed decision on if you want to get the flu shot or not.

Do you like what you read here? Sign up for our monthly newsletter:



1. 2013-2014 Flu Shot Vaccine Information.
2. N.a. “Influenza Vaccine Products By Excipient.” Minnesota Department Of Health. 26 September 2013. Web. 1 September 2014.
3. N.a. “Influenza.” Centers For Disease Control. 1 September 2014. Web. 1 September 2014.