Think it’s too late to protect yourself from the flu? Here’s why it’s not.
There’s often a big push at the start of flu season in early fall to encourage people to get flu shots. If you happen to be at the doctor during that time of year, you may be asked if you want a flu shot.
Commercials on television remind you that you can get a flu shot at your nearest pharmacy. And many employers and educational institutions make it easy to get vaccinated. But what if you decided to skip getting a flu shot earlier in the season or just never got around to getting it done? Is it too late to do it now?
Now is the perfect time to get a flu shot if you haven’t already gotten one this year. Although getting a flu shot later in the year leaves you more susceptible to getting sick with the flu up until now, flu season typically peaks between December and March, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with February being the month with the highest rate of illness. So if you get a flu shot now, you’ll still be protected when the flu virus is circulating the most.
Getting a flu shot every year is the best way to protect you from getting sick with the flu. Since there are many strains of the virus, each year’s shot protects against a few of the influenza viruses expected to be the most likely to circulate during the year. So you can’t just rely on a flu shot you got last year or in years past — you need one every year for the best protection.
Flu shots don’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu, but they do make it less likely you will get sick. If you do happen to get infected with the influenza virus, you’re less likely to get as sick if you have gotten a flu shot than if you have not, so it’s still worth getting one. It takes up to two weeks to fully build immunity after getting vaccinated, so the sooner you get a flu shot, the sooner you’ll be protected.
The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu shot every year with few exceptions. It’s especially important for people at risk of complications from the flu to get vaccinated, including:
- Young children
- Older adults
- Pregnant women
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, kidney or liver disease, cancer and obesity
- People living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities
If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, don’t delay. Give yourself the gift of health by protecting yourself against influenza, a contagious illness that can leave you feeling lousy for days or may even result in serious complications that send you to the hospital.
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Date Last Reviewed: October 18, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor