By Amanda Rogers
Everybody’s talking about a vaccine for COVID-19, but there’s a shot you can get right now that can help prevent another deadly virus – influenza.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 9 million to 45 million people in the United States get the flu every year, resulting in 140,000 to 180,000 people being hospitalized and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths every year since 2010.
With hospitals already tending to waves of COVID-19 patients, it’s even more important to roll up your sleeve for the flu shot this year. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older with just a few exceptions – like if you’re allergic to the shot. People who are allergic to eggs, who have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome or who are not feeling well should talk to their physician before getting the shot.
Pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses can still get the flu vaccine. And folks with compromised immunity are particularly vulnerable and should plan to get the vaccine.
So do you have to get the shot every year? And, if so, when?
Yes! You need a shot every year.
There are different strains of flu circulating each year, so the shot you got last year is for last year’s strains. Researchers around the world do surveillance and forecast which strains will be rampant in the upcoming year for the new vaccines. In the U.S., the Federal Drug Administration makes the final call on which strains will be included in the annual vaccine. Of course, you can still get another strain that wasn’t included in the new vaccine, but research has shown that people who get the shot have less severe symptoms, especially children and older adults.
The CDC also estimates that the vaccine lasts approximately six months. It takes two to four weeks for the body to form antibodies and reach immunity. The vaccine is most effective for the first three months, but immunities can persist up to six months.
The flu hangs around all year, but usually peaks between December and February. So going by that calendar, October being the ideal month. But if you miss the ideal window, you should still get the flu vaccine, doctors say.
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