OK, we screwed up big time! Lots of visitors to this website let us know in no uncertain terms that we did not adequately answer the questions we posed in a recent article: “Should You Get Your Flu Shot Now? How Well Will It Work?”
Lots of people wanted to know precisely when to get a flu shot. Others were mad that we were not more enthusiastic and encouraging about getting vaccinated. Last year’s vaccine was only 29% effective. Read the details here.
Our suggestion that each individual would have to make his or her own decision about a flu shot went over like a lead balloon. We have attempted to answer some of the most frequent questions below.
How Would You Know When to Get a Flu Shot?
Q. What is the best vaccine strategy for maximum protection during the flu season? Is the flu worse early in the season or later? How quickly does the shot become effective? How long does it last?
My pharmacy is urging customers to let them give you your flu shot right now! I worry that the benefits might fade before the peak flu season is over in January or February.
An Answer to the Q: When to Get a Flu Shot:
A. Influenza is highly variable. There is no way to predict when it will hit, how long it will last or when it will be most virulent.
Last year’s flu season persisted for over five months. The nasty H3N2 virus struck late in the season—from mid-February through mid-May. The vaccine did not work well against this strain of influenza.
As for timing, the CDC states that:
“Vaccinating early – for example, in July or August –may lead to reduced protection against influenza later in the season, particularly among older adults.”
The CDC recommends that most people get vaccinated by the end of October. It takes about two weeks for your body to make antibodies against influenza viruses. That means that this would be a very good time to get your flu shot if you are planning to do so.
Readers Comment on When to Get a Flu Shot:
Virginia says even a little protection is worthwhile:
“Some protection is better than none! One day of the flu is too much so I appreciate every little bit of decreased symptoms. Medicine is an art not a science.”
Dzrlib offers this comment:
“I am 84 years old and have never had a flu shot. I think it’s because I take 3 to 4 grams of crystalline Vitamin C every day, dissolved in tomato juice. Been doing this for over 40 years.”
Phyllis trusts the vaccine:
“I’ve been so lucky. I’ve been taking flu shots for 30 years or more. I only had a mild case of flu one time. That was around the second or third time I took it. I would never hesitate to take my flu shot. I’m now 76 years old and trust the shots.”
Infectious disease experts emphasize that vaccination offers the best protection against influenza. Though it isn't perfect, they urge people at risk for flu (most of us) to get a flu shot between the middle of October and early November.
Chris delayed his shot and won’t do it again!
“I’m 71. Two years ago, I put off getting my flu shot because I read that seniors should wait until December so they’d have better protection in February. I got the flu the day before I was scheduled for my shot and was horribly sick for a month.
“From now on, I will get my flu shot in October or early November. In years I’ve gotten a timely flu shot, I have never had the flu.”
Shirley’s husband got the flu even though he got the shot:
“We are seniors and got the stronger dose of the flu vaccine last fall. My husband got the flu in late January and was knocked out for at least two weeks. He was in bed and didn’t eat much the first week. I managed to stay far enough away from him that I didn’t get it.”
What About Colds?
You may find our Guide to Colds, Coughs & the Flu of interest. In it we discuss vaccines as well as nondrug cold strategies with vitamins C and D, astragalus, ginger and thyme.
You may also find our one-hour podcast of interest:
This free one-hour interview with Tieraona Low Dog, MD, will provide practical information about improving immunity to respiratory viruses. You can stream the audio by clicking on the green arrow below Dr. Low Dog’s photo. You can download the free mp3 file by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on “Download the mp3” just above “View Comments.”