The Best Time to Get a Flu Shot This Year

By Sheelu Bhatnagar, MD

October 23, 2021

Best Flu Shot Time

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year’s flu season could be early and severe. This is due to weakened flu immunity after many have spent months avoiding COVID exposure in crowds. Many believe that receiving the flu or COVID-19 vaccine lowers risks for both viruses, but that’s a misunderstanding; since these are two distinctive viruses, they have different vaccines.

The CDC has advised that “getting a flu vaccine is the best protection against flu and its serious complications, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against COVID-19.” For this reason, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recommended getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible.

Flu Trends

Flu cases were historically low last year due to pandemic conditions, including:

  • Global isolation precautions
  • Outdoor face coverings
  • Restrictions on children’s play dates
  • Canceled team sports events

These factors limited the building up of immunity. A new research study shows that rhinovirus circulates in children, but other viruses (influenza and RSV) have sharply declined.

This year with more people out and about, and children and teachers back in schools, the situation is dangerously different. Flu cases and death rates are soaring.

Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends vaccinations, masking, and hand hygiene. Studies have also found a significant decline in virus transmission with universal masking and social distancing, even protecting those who are not vaccinated. It’s crucial to avoid sick people and stay home when you’re ill to protect coworkers, classmates, or teachers from catching the flu. It’s also recommended that everyone older than age two should wear a mask.

Get the Flu Shot Now

The best time to get a flu vaccine, essentially now, is anywhere between September and October. The CDC’s guidance states that it takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to produce antibodies that provide protection against the flu. “Remember, after you are vaccinated, your body takes about two weeks to develop antibodies that protect against flu. If you miss this window, it’s not too late—it’s still worth being vaccinated while flu viruses are circulating, which can be through January or even later

Early vaccination (in July or August) is feasible in children (aged ≥ 6 months) and women in their third trimester of pregnancy to protect their infants during the first months of life (too young to be vaccinated). Getting a shot early on will ensure protection before flu starts circulating in the community.

The benefits of getting a flu shot are clear. 2021 study data revealed that flu vaccination had lowered the risk of ICU admission (26%) and death (31%) compared to unvaccinated adults. 2020-2021 flu season vaccine options are:

  • Standard dose flu shots
  • High-dose shots and shots made with adjuvant for 65 years and older
  • Vaccines made with virus grown in cell culture (no eggs)
  • Recombinant vaccine using a vaccine production technology without a candidate vaccine virus (CVV) sample.
  • Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) or nasal-spray vaccine (for healthy people two to 49 years old) using attenuated (weakened) live virus.

Sometimes experts don’t advise early vaccination to immunocompromised older individuals with compromised immunity. This is due to reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season.

Flu and Covid-19 Vaccines Simultaneously

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccines, including a flu vaccine, be administered conveniently at the same visit.

Clinical research shows that the potential immune response and side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines. Those in isolation (at home or outside a medical setting) for suspected or confirmed COVID-19, or those in quarantine after an exposure, should not go to vaccination sites.

Places Offering Flu Shots

A record number of flu vaccine doses (~200 million doses) have been distributed in the United States from 2020 and 2021. Local health departments, pharmacies, urgent care, college health center, schools, and workplaces are offering flu vaccination in addition to the provider’s clinic.

Don’t delay vaccination to wait for a specific vaccine product when another age-appropriate vaccine is available (unless your provider recommends a particular shot). The current vaccine is a good match for the viruses causing the flu this year. Finally, unvaccinated people should be vaccinated even if they become ill with influenza during the season. This is because the vaccine may protect them against other circulating influenza viruses.

If you do catch the flu and your doctor decides to prescribe a medicine for you, ScriptSave® WellRx can help you find savings on generic and name-brand medications. Sign up for your free card today.

Sheelu Bhatnagar, MD, Ph.D. is a physician writer/informaticist with education and training in both clinical medicine and medical informatics. She has almost 15 years of industry experience, the first half of it in clinical medicine and another half in clinical informatics. She holds an M.D. from Delhi Medical College and Ph.D. from Rutgers NJ State University. She has written multiple articles on Diabetes Mellitus, Alzheimer’s, and executed clinical decision support rationale for numerous clinical diagnoses e.g. diabetes, Alzheimer’s, neuro-cardiovascular diseases, renal insufficiencies, cirrhosis, malignancies, epilepsy, schizophrenia, ophthalmology, pain relief, immunodeficiencies, etc. for technology companies. Dr. Bhatnagar is proficient in reviewing medical literature, understanding, presenting research data, and analyzing different types of scientific documents to portray these scientific ideas in a logical flow in making the information understandable to the readers.


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