When Should You Get the Flu Vaccine?

October 03, 2018
Flu

Off a record year for flu cases, many are left wondering when the best time is for flu vaccination

More than 80,000 people died from influenza related illnesses last winter – a staggering number and the highest in over a decade according to the CDC. The importance of getting a flu vaccine cannot be overstated, so why do some people avoid getting it?.

One reason that people don’t get the flu shot is misinformation. Common myths include:

  • Myth: “I’ll get sick from the shot.” Truth: You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Although it’s a common misperception, the weakened or deactivated virus in the vaccine is not capable of causing the flu.
  • Myth: “I never get sick.” Truth: Just because you haven’t gotten the flu yet, doesn’t mean you’re immune to it.

MichelinMarita“If you’ve rarely been ill with the flu, you could be even more susceptible,” explains Dr. Marita Michelin, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital. “More importantly, no one wants to be the one who spreads the flu to their friends and family.”

So, when is the best time to get the flu vaccine?

According to the CDC, getting vaccinated before the flu season is in full effect offers the best protection. Antibodies that protect against influenza take two weeks to build up after receiving the shot, which is why it’s important to get vaccinated by the end of October before the flu season hits its peak.

Michelin says that recommendations are that everyone over the age of six months should receive the vaccine annually. “The vaccine will not only help to protect you from getting the flu, but new research shows it will also help lessen the severity of the symptoms should you get the flu,” she explained.  “The influenza virus is constantly changing. Each year, researchers work to identify the virus strains they believe will cause the most illness and the vaccine is made off their recommendations. So it is important to get vaccinated every year.”

Children between the age of six months and eight years of age may need two doses to be fully protected from the flu. Additionally, a higher potency vaccine is available to those over 65.

Michelin also emphasized the value of flu vaccines for pregnant women. Complications can arise from the flu in pregnant women including pneumonia and hospitalizations. The benefit for both the mother and the baby are critical.

Lastly, Michelin stressed the significance of hand hygiene. “Whether you use an alcohol based hand sanitizer or soap and water, it’s crucial to keep your hands clean so you don’t spread germs to others or contract the disease yourself,” she said.

The flu vaccine is currently available at Rochester Regional Health primary care locations along with additional locations sponsored by Monroe County.