When Should I Get the Flu Vaccine This Year?

In normal years, most people are advised to get their flu shot by the end of October. This is no normal year. With a pandemic about to collide with flu season, several experts advise getting the influenza vaccine ASAP.

Flu season normally starts in October, peaking during winter. The shot takes a couple weeks to become effective, as your body build the antibodies that help ward off an infection. The protective effect tends to wane after three or four months, especially in older people.

“There is no change in CDC’s recommendation on timing of vaccination this flu season,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states. “September and October are good times to get vaccinated.”

But several experts advise getting the shot now, or as soon as you can.

“I would recommend taking flu shot slightly earlier than usual [in September] particularly if you are younger, because we don’t all want to rush for a vaccine at the same time during pandemic and we want to ensure we reduce flu activity right away in our communities,” says Nahid Bhadelia, MD, an infectious diseases physician at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Bhadelia’s comments were part of a long Twitter discussion among clinical doctors and epidemiologists, the people who study infectious-disease transmission. Eleanor Murray, ScD, assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University’s School of Public Health, started the discussion. She summarized it this way: “Epidemiologists and clinicians agree, get your flu vaccine as soon as you can this year.”

Because a person could catch the flu and Covid-19, one after the other or simultaneously, potentially worsening the outcome of either, other scientists have said this year’s flu could be the most important one you ever get.

For locations, see the CDC’s Vaccine Finder.

Independent health and science journalist, former editor-in-chief of LiveScience, writing about how we age and how to optimize your mind and body through time.

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