The flu comes around every year. But thanks to the flu vaccine, you don’t have to get sick every year.

More good news: An annual flu shot may be 100 percent covered by your UnitedHealthcare plan.* Here’s how the flu vaccine works to help protect you.

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1. A prediction goes viral

Scientists around the globe study which flu viruses are spreading and making people sick. They use that information to predict which three or four viruses will be the most common or dangerous in the coming flu season.

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2. A plan is hatched

Private companies make the vaccines — and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests them. Most of the viruses are grown in chicken eggs. Then the viruses are killed or weakened and made into vaccines. But there are also vaccines that are egg-free and some that are made other ways.

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3. Packages of prevention hit the mail

The vaccines are shipped to pharmacies, clinics and health departments throughout the country. It takes at least six months for large quantities of vaccine to be produced, tested and delivered in time for the fall flu season.

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4. You get your shot

Get your flu shot as soon as you can, preferably before the end of October. Everyone age 6 months and older — with few exceptions — should get a flu shot every year. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.

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5. Your immune system shifts into gear

You can’t get the flu from the dead or weak viruses in the vaccine. But your body’s immune system still makes antibodies to fight them. It takes about two weeks for your antibodies to reach full strength.

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6. Antibodies at the ready!

If the flu tries to infect you, your immune system sends the antibodies to stop it. Even if the virus you’re exposed to isn’t a perfect match for the vaccine, your antibodies may still help protect you from getting really sick.

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7. You help the herd

Because you’re less likely to get the flu after your vaccine, the people around you — including kids — are less likely to catch the flu from you. So your decision to be vaccinated helps your loved ones as well as yourself.

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8. Take care … just in case

The flu vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective. So healthy habits still matter. It’s a good idea to stay away from people who are sick, wash your hands often and take good care of yourself.

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9. Let’s do this again!

Flu viruses are always evolving. And different bugs may step into the spotlight from year to year. That’s why it’s important to get a new flu vaccine every year.