When should you get your 2022 flu shot?

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives across the country, the flu remains a potentially serious threat to your health.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 2010 and 2020, the flu caused 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 52,000 deaths annually. But the organization says so During the 2020-2021 flu season, only about half of adults got a flu shot.

A flu shot can prevent you from getting the flu, which is a stressful, uncomfortable experience even if your symptoms aren’t severe. And when you do If you get the flu, getting the flu shot can also save you from getting sick enough to need a hospital (and exposing yourself to all the COVID risks that hospital environments can bring).

According to the CDC, the flu vaccine also offers other potential health effects, such as: lower rates of certain cardiac events for people with heart disease. It is also the best and safest way not only to protect yourself against the influenza virus, but also to minimize the chance that you’ll spread it to others — people who could be at far greater risk of serious complications or even death if they were to become infected. Read more from the CDC about what the flu shot can do for you.

And read on to find out if you should get the flu shot now and where to find free or inexpensive flu shot options near you.

Is this flu season going to be bad?

It’s true that 2020 saw a record number of flu cases – most likely due to widespread mask wearing, increased hygiene, social distancing and remote work and school.

Last year’s flu season also “didn’t rise as much as people expected,” said UCSF medical professor Dr. Peter Chin-Hong — but “it dragged on a lot longer.” While a typical flu season peaks in February, Chin-Hong said last year’s “lasted from October 2021 to June 2022 — a much longer tail than we did.” would normally expect”.

So what about the flu risks this winter? Chin-Hong said he and other medics are “concerned for several reasons.”

Along with the lifting of COVID restrictions, there is the fact that Australia has just had its worst flu season in five years. Because the continent’s winter occurs during the United States’ summer, Australia’s flu season has traditionally been an indicator of how bad ours could be — and worryingly, it was as “robust as any of the pre-pandemic flu seasons,” Chin said – Hong Kong.

Should I get the flu shot now or wait?

Medical professionals’ recommendations on when to get a flu shot are based on the fact that it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to form and provide protection against the flu.

This flu season, the CDC says September and October are “generally good times to get the flu shot,” and that “Ideally, everyone should be vaccinated by the end of October.”

It takes two weeks after your flu shot for your body to make the antibodies it needs to protect you from the flu virus. (Queen’s University/Flickr)

Yes, there is evidence of that, says Chin-Hong Your risk of getting the flu increases every month after your flu shot because antibodies wane over time.

But when medical professionals talk about strategically “waiting” for a flu shot, they direct this advice to those who are at particularly high risk for more serious flu-related complications. This includes people over 65, people with chronic medical conditions, people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and children under the age of 5.

Delaying vaccinations for these populations is based on the idea of ​​getting the vaccination at what Chin-Hong calls “the ideal point,” around mid to late October. Two weeks later, around early November, the antibodies should have developed just as flu season is getting serious. Consider it the “biggest bang for your buck,” he said.

So if you belong to one of these vulnerable categories? Yes, you can think about waiting, says Chin-Hong. People over 65 might also consider requesting the special flu vaccines for that age group – read more about this below. As with all health matters, when seeking advice the best way is to consult your doctor or someone you see regularly for your medical needs.

And what if you’re under 65, not pregnant, and don’t have other risk factors for severe flu? If you’re really confident about planning ahead and not forgetting to make the appointment, “it’s probably best to get it before the end of October,” Chin-Hong said. But remember, you’re not just human and it might slip your mind, but predictions about how the flu season might play out are just that – predictions. The timing of this year’s flu season may surprise us and confound previous notions of a “best time” to mess up the vaccine.

“Just as we can’t predict the next COVID surge, we don’t know if influenza will have a different pattern this year,” Chin-Hong said, noting that Australia’s particularly bad flu season started earlier than expected. So take this “October Rule” with “a grain of salt,” he advised, and “get it [your flu shot] when you get it.”

What if you want to get vaccinated in October with the best of intentions but still forget? If November 1st comes and goes and you realize you haven’t been vaccinated, all is not lost — as the CDC says that “getting vaccinated after October can still provide protection during the peak of flu season,” which is usually the February is.

In other words, just get the recording – whenever that may be.

Can I get my COVID booster and flu shot at the same time?

Yes you can. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID response coordinator, went so far as to tell the audience in a Sept. 6 briefing:I really believe that’s why God gave us two arms – one for the flu shot and the other for the COVID shot.

This “COVID shot” is the newly available COVID booster – that is the new Moderna and Pfizer boosters of the reformulated COVID-19 vaccine. The updated vaccinations, dubbed bivalent vaccines, target both the original strain of coronavirus and the widespread Omicron subvariants BA.4/BA.5, which have largely evaded previous boosters.

Anyone aged 12 and over who received their last COVID shot at least two months ago – whether it is the first series of shots or the last booster shot – can now get an updated COVID booster shot. Read more about finding an updated COVID booster near you.

The CDC confirms it’s safe to get the flu shot and the bivalent COVID booster at the same time “if you are eligible and the timing matches.” Several pharmacy chains are urging those who make an online appointment for a bivalent COVID booster to “add” a flu shot at the same time.

Taking both shots at the same time is certainly convenient, Chin-Hong said, “It’s all one-stop and again: out of sight, out of mind.”

The only thing potentially stopping you from getting your bivalent COVID booster and your flu shot: If you want to get your booster as soon as possible, some experts believe you may be It might be a bit early to get the flu shot now, considering how immunity to the vaccine is waning. That’s what other doctors say the benefits of people remembering, actually receive Both her booster shot and her flu shot probably outweigh the conseven if it means the timing of her flu vaccine is a little early.

Chin-Hong reiterated, “If you really wanted to optimize the timing of your flu shot, yes, sometime in October is probably the best.” But ultimately, that’s just what he’s saying to get the shots is better than not getting them at all.

If I have risk factors for severe flu, what type of flu shot should I get?

If you’re 65 or older, this flu season has something new for you to know: There are now three types of flu vaccines that are recommended for you because they’re even more effective for you than a regular flu shot.

Chin-Hong said people in this age group should seek out these three types of vaccines because what you’re getting is “essentially a high-dose vaccine,” or a vaccine that contains an “adjuvant” — which, simply put, “makes the flu vaccine stronger in terms of that.” Wake up the immune system,” he said. Read more about the three types of flu shots available to people aged 65 and over.

Pregnant women can get regular flu shots, although there are some types of flu vaccines that are off-limits to pregnant women. The CDC says getting vaccinated during pregnancy not only helps protect you from the flu, but — if your baby is born during the immunity phase — it also protects your child for the first few months of life when they are too young to give birth to get vaccinated yourself.

This benefit for the baby is also why pregnant women are one of the few groups that might consider getting the flu shot earlyrather than waiting – to make sure her baby isn’t left completely unprotected for the first six months after birth, when she can’t get a vaccine. Read more about the benefits of getting the flu shot when you’re pregnant.

Children as young as 6 months can have a regular dose of the flu shot. The flu can be particularly dangerous for childrenand the CDC says a 2022 study showed that flu shots reduced children’s risk of severe, life-threatening flu by 75%.

Where can I get the flu shot if I have insurance?

If you have health insurance, a flu shot is available at no extra cost as a preventative service from your usual healthcare provider or most pharmacies (see below).

It’s a good idea to wear a mask, maintain social distancing wherever possible while waiting for your shot, and change into a top with sleeves that you can easily pull up to your shoulder to make the injection even easier (and quicker). make.

Common places to find a flu shot appointment, walk-in location, or drive-through flu shot:

Where can I get the flu shot if I Not have health insurance?

If you want to get the flu shot but don’t have health insurance, you can get the vaccine for free from several providers and community clinics in the Bay Area. (Technically, you can use these free services even if you have insurance, but you may consider releasing these special resources to those who don’t have insurance.)

Your county health department may also offer flu shots.

Places to get a free or low-cost flu shot in the Bay Area include:

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