The kids are back in school and where you live it still might feel like summer but the 2015-2016 flu shot vaccine is making it’s first appearances across the country. Here’s everything you need to know about the 2015-2016 flu shot vaccine.

For Information Regarding The 2016-2017 Flu Vaccine, please see our guide on the 2016-2017 influenza vaccine.

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 viruses to be contained in the flu shot. Last year, the flu vaccine turned out to be only twenty-three percent effective against protecting people against the virus (4). Part of it was due in part to the fact that the flu vaccine contained the same viruses as the flu season before it. For the 2015-2016 flu vaccine they decided to change things up.

What The 2015-2016 Flu Shot Protects Against:

1. An Influenza A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
2. An Influenza A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus
3. An Inluenza B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus. (This is a B/Yamagata lineage virus)

Most flu vaccines guard against three strains of influenza, however, some contain four strains. For the 2015-2016 flu shots that contain four strains of the flu they will also include:

An Influenza B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus). This is a B/Victoria lineage virus – and the same strain as the last two years.

That’s the skinny on what this year’s flu shot has to offer (5). Below are some common questions in regards to the flu shot.

Does The 2015-2016 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 2015-2016 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 2015-2016 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. If you’re still curious, just ask whoever is giving your vaccine for a full list of their ingredients.

The 2015-2016 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 2015-2016 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 2015-2016 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. For the 2015-2016 flu season, the nasal spray is available for people ages two through forty-nine years of age.

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 2015-2016 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 personnel
11. All 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.

Current recommendations are that flu vaccinations begin before any major outbreaks of influenza, and optimally by October.

Who Shouldn’t Get The Flu Vaccine

The CDC currently recommends 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
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
8. People with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or to a previous dose of any influenza vaccine
9. People who have taken antiviral flu medications within the last forty-eight hours

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. Here is a current list of flu vaccine ingredients provided by the CDC (5).

Vaccine Brand Ingredient List
Influenza (Afluria) Beta-propiolactone, thimerosol (multi-dose vials only), monobasic sodium phosphate, dibasic sodium phosphate, monobasic potassium phosphate, potassium chloride, calcium chloride, sodium taurodeoxycholate, neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B, egg protein, sucrose.
Influenza (Agriflu) Egg proteins, formaldehyde, polysorbate 80, cetyltrimethylammonium bromide, neomycin sulfate, kanamycin, barium.
Influenza (Fluarix) Trivalent and Quadrivalent Octoxynol-10 (Triton X- Į-tocopheryl hydrogen succinate, polysorbate 80 (Tween 80), hydrocortisone, gentamicin sulfate, ovalbumin, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate, sucrose, phosphate buffer.
Influenza (Flublok) Monobasic sodium phosphate, dibasic sodium phosphate, polysorbate 20, baculovirus and host cell proteins, baculovirus and cellular DNA, Triton X-100, lipids, vitamins, amino acids, mineral salts.
Influenza (Flucelvax) Madin Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cell protein, MDCK cell DNA, ȕ-propiolactone, phosphate buffer, polysorbate 80, FHWOWULPHWKODPPRQLXP EURPLGH ȕ-propiolactone, phosphate buffer.
Influenza (Flulaval) Trivalent and Quadrivalent Thimerosal, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate, egg proteins, phosphate buffer.
Influenza (Flulaval) Trivalent and Quadrivalent Thimerosal, formaldehyde, sodium deoxycholate, egg proteins, phosphate buffer.
Influenza (FluMist) Quadrivalent Ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA), monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed porcine gelatin, arginine, sucrose, dibasic potassium phosphate, monobasic potassium phosphate, gentamicin sulfate, egg protein.
Influenza (Fluvirin) Nonylphenol ethoxylate, thimerosal (multidose vial–trace only in .refilled syringe), polymyxin, neomycin, beta-propiolactone, egg proteins, phosphate buffer.
Influenza (Fluzone: Standard (Trivalent and Quadrivalent), High-Dose, & Intradermal) Formaldehyde, octylphenol ethoxylate (Triton X-100), gelatin (standard trivalent formulation only), thimerosal (multi-dose vial only) , egg protein, phosphate buffers, sucrose.

The list above contains vaccine ingredients but also substances used during the manufacturing process and vaccine production media that are removed from the final product and present only in trace quantities. However, some vaccine manufactures may change their product contents before release. For full vaccine ingredients, please check your institutions flu vaccine ingredient list.

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 flsu shot. As part of my profession of being an ER nurse 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.

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. “What You Should Know For The 2015-2015 Influenza Season.” Centers For Disease Control. 24 June 2015. Web. 5 August 2015
4. N.a. “Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness, 2005-2016.” Centers For Disease Control. 25 June 2015. Web. 4 August 2015.
5. N.a. “Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary. Excipients Included in U.S. Vaccines, By Vaccine.” Centers For Disease Control. February 2015. Web. 6 September 2015.