Here is a phrase you will hear a lot over the next few months: Get your flu shot. Experts, including top documents like Anthony Fauci, MD, cannot stress this enough. Influenza immunizations can help us avoid a “twindemic”. They are critical. But many people wonder when is the best time to get the flu. If you get it too soon, will the effects “wear out” before the end of the flu season?
We have answers. But first a quick explanation of why flu shots are so critical: “Getting the shot prevents flu infection, which reduces the burden on our healthcare system and keeps your immune system protected from the flu,” explains Nate Favini, MD, the medical director of Fremad, a preventive primary care practice. “It also contributes to what is called ‘herd immunity’, which reduces the transmission of influenza through the population and protects children, older adults and people with medical conditions from influenza.”
In short: it reduces your chances of getting sick. It protects vulnerable populations from getting sick. And it reduces the likelihood of hospitals and health centers becoming congested again as the flu season and pandemic converge. That sounds like a win-win-win situation, right?
Right. So now that you’ve committed to getting your flu shot, here’s all you need to know about when to do it.
What is the best time to get the flu?
The end of October, explains Dr. Favini. Here’s why: There’s some evidence that getting a flu shot early in the season – such as August or September – can leave you with declining immunity by January or February, he says. This can be a problem because the flu season typically lasts through March, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This may be especially the case for people over the age of 65 who do not have such a strong immune response to vaccines,” says Dr. Favini.
“On the other hand,” he continues, “getting a shot early is dramatically better than not getting a shot at all. So even though I tend to think that the end of October is the optimal time to get a flu shot, if you have a chance to do it faster and maybe miss it later in the season, just go for it now. “After being stung, it takes you about two weeks to build up immunity.
When did the flu vaccine become available in 2020?
Manufacturers are already rolling out the flu vaccine, and doctors expect the full supply to be in circulation by the third week of September, explains Charles Golden, MD, vice president and chief medical officer of the CHOC Children’s Primary Care Network. “In some places the flu has already shot, while others are still waiting to be ordered [from private manufacturers], ”Adds Dr. Favini.
Do you need to get your flu shot early?
This question is more complicated than you might think. It is possible that tens of thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths related to influenza could have been avoided if older adults waited until October to see the needle, according to a 2019 analysis in American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Favini reiterates this, saying that the optimal time to go in is in October to ensure that the flu vaccine lasts through the winter.
But by 2020, the shot may not be as accessible. There should be enough vaccines to go around – manufacturers produced 20 million more doses in 2020 than they did in 2019 because they expect greater demand due to the pandemic – but many people got their shots for free at school or at work last year . This year, so many people are working from home or unemployed and removing this opportunity. Instead, they will have to go out of their way to get it at pharmacies and doctor’s offices and potentially increase their contact with others. Because of these barriers, some health experts just encourage people to just get shot ASAP.
When is it too late to get a flu shot?
Influenza season typically ends in March, so there is limited benefit from being shot in the spring. But in this case, late is better than never. As long as flu strains (there are several and the big ones are flu A and B) are still circulating, you can get a shot. “It is only too late when the seasonal supply of influenza vaccine is exhausted,” says Dr. Golden. “We typically recommend the flu vaccine to anyone who has not had one that season, even as late as April or May. Some protection is better than none. ”
Nevertheless, the most protection against the flu shot is obtained if people are vaccinated before the virus peaks in local circulation, which is expected to occur in December and January this year, explains Dr. Golden.
What time of day should you get a flu shot?
The body may have a stronger immune response when the vaccine is given in the morning, according to a study published in the journal, Vaccine. “It can translate into better immunity to the flu,” says Dr. Favini. So be sure to consider getting a shot before work – but honestly, there is not enough evidence that this is true or that the effect is particularly deep. So if it’s more convenient for you after work, it’s fine. The important thing is to just get the shot. “The best time is no matter what time is convenient and available for you and your provider,” emphasizes Dr. Golden.
What are the side effects of getting a flu shot?
Despite arguments to the contrary, science says you can not get a flu infection from the flu shot, assures Dr. Golden. “There has been extensive research supporting the safety of influenza vaccines, and hundreds of millions of Americans have received the vaccine,” adds Dr. Favini. However, side effects can include soreness, redness, swelling, headache, fever, nausea and muscle aches. These side effects are typically mild and go away in a few days, he says.
Could we run out of flu shots this year?
Yes, the push to get a shot has increased perhaps more this year than anyone else. But the flu shot is unlikely to be the new Clorox wipe (i.e. it does not run out and is sold out for several months). We have enough enough. “Manufacturers have increased production, and the CDC expects that we will get enough vaccines to immunize 60% of the population here in the United States,” says Dr. Favini. “Only 45% of people are vaccinated in a typical year, so I suppose we get enough. There is no need to panic. ”
It is true that last year, some local pharmacies reportedly ran out of shots in mid-October, but it was not a matter of “shortage” but delays in shipping between manufacturers and small, local pharmacies, as ABC57 in South Bend, Indiana, reported at the time. If this is a problem in your area, it’s best to call ahead before showing up to make sure they currently have some shots in stock. You can also call your local health department to find out where you can get a shot.
So when and why should I get the flu shot in 2020?
We would happily say it a million times: Get your flu shot between now and the end of October. If you miss that window, get it anyway. And once you’ve got it, keep doing all the things you’ve done to stay safe from COVID-19: social distance, wearing a mask, washing your hands. “The more people who get vaccinated, the more we help protect more vulnerable people like babies who can’t get the flu and seniors who are more likely to get very sick from the flu,” says Dr. Favini. “Your shot can save the life of someone you know.”
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