Flu viruses typically spread in fall and winter, with activity peaking between December and February. Getting vaccinated in the fall can lower your chances of getting the flu.
Haven’t had your flu shot yet? It’s not too late. And there are still good reasons to get one.
Flu is a serious disease, caused by influenza viruses, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Your best defense is vaccination, which provides protection from flu and its potential complications.
Flu vaccination prevents millions of flu-related illnesses and visits to a health care professional. For example, according to the CDC, during the 2019-2020 influenza season, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 105,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths.
To find a flu vaccine near you, visit this page.
COVID-19 and Flu
It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will continue to circulate together in fall and winter. The flu vaccine does not prevent COVID-19. The FDA has approved two vaccines for the prevention of COVID-19 and issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for other vaccines for the prevention of COVID-19. For the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, visit this FDA page.
Flu vaccines are approved by the FDA for the prevention of influenza disease and to protect against four different virus strains of influenza. Getting vaccinated to prevent this disease can help keep you out of the doctor’s office for a sick visit and preserve health care resources for patients with other diseases and medical conditions.
How Flu Spreads
Flu viruses are spread by droplets when people infected with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Flu may also be spread when a person touches a surface or object that has flu viruses on it and then touches their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
You can reduce the spread of the flu and its effects by taking such practical measures as washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when you’re sick.
Who Should Get A Flu Vaccine
The CDC recommends that children older than 6 months and adults get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Even if you wait until after October, go ahead and get vaccinated. Immunization will still be beneficial and provide protection. For more information on flu vaccine recommendations, visit this CDC page.
Typically, children and older people are most at risk of getting sick with influenza. The best way to protect babies who are too young to be vaccinated is to make sure the people around them are vaccinated.
If you have already been sick with the flu this season without getting vaccinated, getting a flu vaccine is still important because it helps prevent disease caused by four different strains of flu viruses. Presumably, you were infected with one type of flu virus strain, so the vaccine would offer protection against the strains that you haven’t already had.
Will the Flu Vaccine Make Me Sick?
The flu vaccine will trigger your immune system to produce antibodies to protect against influenza disease — it will not make you sick with the flu. It can take about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body, which is an important reason to get your flu vaccine early, before flu activity starts.
Why We Need New Flu Vaccines Every Year
There are several reasons a new flu vaccine must be made each year.
Flu viruses can change from year to year, so the vaccine is updated to protect against the influenza virus strains that are expected to circulate in the U.S. In addition, the protection provided by the flu vaccine a person received in the previous year will diminish over time and may be too low to prevent influenza disease into next year’s flu season.
This post has been excerpted from the FDA Consumer Update: It’s a Good Time to Get Your Flu Vaccine, published on 10/13/2022.