According to the Centers for Disease Control, getting the flu vaccine before the flu spreads in your community is essential. The best time to get a flu shot is typically in October because it’s a good amount of time for antibodies to develop in the body in preparation for peak flu season. After receiving the vaccine, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies in the shot to develop in your body and protect you from the flu.
The Best Time to Get a Flu Shot
The best time to get a flu shot is before the flu season begins at the end of October. Since flu season can last throughout April, getting vaccinated too early (July and August) can reduce your protection later in the year.
Typical flu season tends to be between December and March. Although peak flu season varies from year to year, the peak of the flu season usually falls between December and February. Within the past 18 years, only three flu seasons have peaked in March: 2005-2006, 2011-2012, and 2015-2016.
October has been seen as the prime month for extending immunity throughout the peak flu season and into March.
Past and Projected Futures of Flu Seasons
According to the CDC, last flu season saw an unusually low amount of flu cases, despite having high levels of testing in place. This was assumed to be due to the COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as encouraging individuals to stay home, wear face masks, travel less, and wash their hands more frequently.
Additionally, individuals, last year seemed to be more likely to receive their flu vaccine, as a record number of flu vaccines, 193.8 million, were administered throughout the U.S. during this past flu season.
Despite the lower amount of flu cases last year, healthcare professionals are still uncertain about what this year may bring. Some experts have said that the fewer flu cases last year may actually make this flu season worse than normal due to the lack of natural immunity that could have been built up last year.
Between COVID-19 continuing to circulate, fewer amounts of flu cases from last year, and more individuals being encouraged to receive their flu shot, experts say it is still too soon to definitively know what this flu season will look like.
How the Flu Shot Protects You
After two weeks of receiving the vaccine, your body can create antibodies that stimulate your immune system and fight off the virus present in the vaccine.
Each year, a season flu vaccine is developed against the influenza viruses that researchers predict will be the most common in the upcoming season.
There are two reasons you should get the flu shot every year:
- Immune protection from vaccination declines gradually, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection.
- Flu viruses change insistently. Therefore, flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses that research suggests may be most common during the upcoming flu season.
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Effectivity of Flu Shots in 2021-2022
Each year, the CDC conducts studies on how effective the flu vaccines are in protecting us against the flu. These studies have shown that flu vaccines tend to be about 40% to 60% effective amongst the whole population in reducing the risk of illness from the flu during flu season. Current flu vaccines have been known to work better against influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) than against influenza A (H3N2) viruses.
Factors that Influence Flu Shot Effectivity
- Personal features, such as age and overall health of the vaccinated individual, can make an impact as to how effective the flu shot is in the general public.
- If the flu shot appropriately protects the community against the flu viruses that are currently spreading is another factor that determines how effective the flu shots are. For example, suppose a flu shot does not appropriately target the viruses circulating in the population during a given flu season. In that case, the vaccination will not provide much protection to the individuals.
How Long the Flu Shot Lasts
According to the CDC, it takes about two weeks after you get vaccinated for your body to develop antibodies against the flu. The IAC says that immunity lasts at least six months for most individuals. Protection decreases over time due to the waning of antibody levels. The season flu vaccine should last the entirety of the flu season.
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Different Flu Vaccines
There are several different flu vaccines available:
- Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine: The nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in healthy non-pregnant individuals, two years through 49 years old. People with certain medical conditions should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine.
- Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine: The quadrivalent influenza (flu) vaccine protects against four different flu viruses, including two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
- Flu Vaccination by Jet Injector: A jet injector is a medical device used for vaccination that uses a high-pressure, narrow stream of fluid to penetrate the skin instead of a hypodermic needle. Available for people between 18-64 years old.
- Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine: In the United States, Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent is licensed only for persons aged 65 years and older.
Who Should Get a Flu Shot in 2021-2022
For the best protection, it is recommended that everyone six months and older should get vaccinated annually. Vaccination is even more critical for people who are at high risk for flu complications; this includes individuals includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than five years, but especially those younger than two years old.
Protecting Yourself from the Flu
Aside from getting the flu vaccine, you can also do the following to protect yourself from the flu as well as other infections:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes
- Avoid crowds
- Wear a mask
Alyssa is a Senior Marketing Associate & Content Writer at Mira. She is passionate about educating others on how to affordably access healthcare.