4 myths and facts about the timing of the flu shot
By Jenilee Matz, MPH Aug 25, 2023 • 2 min
Seasonal influenza (the flu) can make you very sick and sometimes lead to dangerous complications. The flu vaccine is known to help reduce the risk of complications, including illnesses, hospitalizations and even flu-related deaths. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that getting the flu shot each flu season is the best way to protect yourself against the flu virus and keep from spreading it to others.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccination each year. But there's a lot of misinformation surrounding the best time of year to receive the flu shot. Here, we break down the facts behind common flu shot timing myths.
Myth: You shouldn't get the flu vaccine until flu viruses begin spreading where you live.
Fact: The CDC says you should receive a flu vaccine before flu viruses start spreading in your community. Try to get a flu vaccine by early fall, ideally in September or October, or when the vaccine is available in your area. It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for antibodies that protect you against the flu to develop in your body, so getting vaccinated before the flu starts to spread in your community is essential. Flu viruses most commonly circulate or are prevalent during the winter months in the U.S., with flu activity often increasing in October or November, typically peaking in January or February, and potentially lasting through late spring.
Myth: The flu shot wears off after a few months.
Fact: The flu shot protects most people against the virus for about five to six months. However, its potency may begin to wear off toward the end of flu season, especially in adults 65 years and older. Keep in mind, though, that it isn't recommended to delay getting the vaccine, because it's best to be protected before the flu hits your community. What's more, vaccine shortages are always possible, so it’s important to get the flu shot early in the fall.
Myth: Once the flu peaks, it's too late in the season to get a flu shot.
Fact: While it's ideal to receive the flu vaccine before flu activity spreads, which is typically in the fall in the U.S., you can get the flu shot at any time during flu season. If you're traveling or haven't been immunized, you can receive your vaccine through late spring or until the supply runs out. Note that flu season runs from April through September in other parts of the world.
Myth: You cannot get the flu shot at the same time as other vaccines.
Fact: Do not delay getting a flu shot because you need other vaccines, or don’t postpone getting other vaccines because flu season is approaching. You can receive the flu vaccine and other vaccines at the same time, including the vaccine for COVID-19.
Strive to get the flu shot this year by the end of October. Receiving the shot before the flu hits can help you stay healthy and keep you from spreading the virus to others.
Remember that the flu shot is the best way to defend against the flu and protect others around you who may be at risk for having complications from the flu, so be sure to get vaccinated each flu season.
Clinically reviewed and updated August 2023 by Julie McDaniel, MSN, RN, CRNI.