I’ve been driving past a sign at my local pharmacy advertising flu shots. It’s been there since August. But flu season doesn’t start until October. Is it time for me to get jabbed? Maybe, but maybe not.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year, and get it by the end of October. The CDC says getting vaccinated later is OK, but keep in mind that it takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, so you might not be fully protected if you get your shot late and the flu season begins very early.
Should older folks wait longer?
Some doctors are suggesting that people aged 65 and older might be better off waiting a little longer to get a flu shot – until sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. That’s because they believe that the flu vaccine may not last as long in older folks as it does in youngsters. They point to a study from a few years ago that found a decline in vaccine effectiveness late in flu season for people 65 years and older.
Some new choices this season
The CDC says you have several choices of flu vaccines for this season:
- Standard dose flu shots. Most are given into the muscle (usually with a needle, but one can be given to some people with a jet injector). One is given into the skin.
- A high-dose shot for people 65 and older.
- A shot made with adjuvant for people 65 and older people.
- A shot made with virus grown in cell culture.
- A shot made using a vaccine production technology (recombinant vaccine) that does not require the use of flu virus.
Note that this year a nasal vaccine is NOT recommended. That’s because the nasal vaccine wasn’t as effective as a flu shot during the last 2 flu seasons.
Flu peaks over the winter
The flu season generally peaks between December and March but it may begin as early as October and may run as late as May. So, what about that advertising that saw back in August? In an interview on NPR, an immunologist at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging said that making the vaccine available that early is simply “a marketing scheme.”