When Is the Best Time to Get a Flu Shot?
Flu season can be unpredictable, but it generally starts sometime after September and ends around May, peaking between December and March. This means that you might begin noticing pharmacy advertisements urging you to get your annual flu shot as early as August. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age six months and older be vaccinated each year.
The CDC recommendation for annual flu shots is based on evidence that influenza viruses are constantly changing. Therefore, even if you’ve had flu shots in the past, you can’t count on the vaccines you received in prior years to provide you with sufficient protection going forward. Based on extensive scientific research, each seasonal flu vaccine is custom-formulated to protect against the three or four main viruses that are believed to be most likely to spread and cause illness in the coming year. For this reason, it’s important for everyone to receive a flu vaccine prior to the start of each flu season. But, when is the best time to do so? The answer to this question is less than straightforward. Here’s why:
After you receive a flu shot, it can take a few weeks for your body to produce and store enough antibodies to defend itself against infection. This means that if you are exposed to an influenza virus during that time, you can still become ill. For this reason, it’s important to get your flu shot early in the season – just not too early. That’s because some studies suggest that the effectiveness of those antibodies can begin to decline over time. So, if you get your flu shot too early, you may end up going unprotected at the end of the season.
Further complicating matters is human nature. If you put off getting your flu shot in an attempt to wait for the optimal time, chances are that you will be more likely to forget about it altogether. And, a vaccine given too early is still preferable to no vaccine at all.
With all of this in mind, some experts believe that the ideal time to get an annual flu shot is sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. But, all things considered, a few weeks in either direction probably won’t make much of a difference.
At South Tampa Immediate Care, we recommend getting a flu shot when it’s most convenient for you. If you have questions or would like to receive a flu vaccine, you can call or visit our office on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, FL. We are open during extended hours, and you can see a doctor without an appointment.