Time to get your flu shot

It’s time to start thinking about getting your flu shot for this year.

The flu vaccine is available in some locations sites now, and will be available at most other places in a few weeks.

Remember that it takes a few weeks to build an antibody response to the antigens in the flu vaccine. You’re not immediately protected against the flu as soon as you are injected. So it’s preferable to get it before cases of the flu start popping up around you.

Most cases of flu usually occur in January and February (in the US). But a number of cases often start occurring in October, so getting vaccinated early is a good idea. Waiting puts you higher risk of getting exposed to the flu and not having a prepared immune system.

Flu shot via Shutterstock

Flu shot via Shutterstock

Remember, that if you wait, and this year’s flu outbreak is serious, there may not be vaccine available when you want it. Manufacturers usually make about 150,000,000-180,000,000 doses of the vaccine each year. So vaccine supplies may be exhausted later in the flu season.

The vaccine is manufactured to protect against three (trivalent) of four (tetravalent) different strains of the flu virus. The CDC and other groups, try to predict which strain(s) will be the most prevalent ones in a given year. But it’s impossible to predict which strain will be the one that causes the most illnesses.

Also, a percentage of patients may not make enough antibodies to protect them against flu. It makes sense to further protect yourself by doing things like washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, avoiding sick people, etc.

Also, if you do get the flu, try to avoid spreading it to others. The elderly, immunocompromised babies and other groups can develop serious complications from flu that could result in death.

You can locate sites where you can get needed vaccine injections (not just flu vaccine) on this map.

Be sure to check out some our earlier coverage about flu vaccines, including evidence that a flu shot could help reduce your chances of having cardiovascular problems, lots of evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism, and more on how anti-vaccine “truthers” have helped bring back whooping cough and measles.

Get your flu shot.


Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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