Wondering when to get your flu shot? The best time is before influenza (flu) starts circulating widely. For most people, September or October is ideal for protection through the whole flu season, as the immune response from the vaccine wanes over time. And while changes and restrictions due to COVID-19 may make getting a flu vaccine less convenient for some this year, the pandemic makes it more important than ever.
Why do I need to get a flu vaccine yearly?
Influenza A and Influenza B cause most cases of flu in humans. Both have many strains that constantly change, accumulating genetic mutations that disguise them from the immune system. Prior exposure to one strain of flu will not necessarily protect you from other strains. Your immune system might not even recognize the same strain if it has mutated enough.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) constantly monitor changing strains of influenza around the world. They use this data to develop vaccines months before flu season starts to protect against the most likely strains to reach the US. This flu season, common strains are likely to include H1N1 and H3N2.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Although the vaccine is not perfect, it is 40% to 60% effective in most years. And if you do get the flu it is likely to be milder, because vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness or death.
During the 2018–2019 flu season, 35.5 million Americans got sick with the flu, and 34,200 died from the flu. However, last year half of all Americans received the flu shot. The CDC estimates this prevented 4.4 million cases of flu, 58,000 hospitalizations, and 3,500 deaths. That’s equivalent to saving 10 lives per day during flu season. The flu vaccine has additional benefits for people