3191940 tn?1447268717

Flu Vaccine Facts: When is the best time to get the flu immunization?

If you live in the Northern hemisphere, now is the time to think about getting the flu shot, and making an appointment to do so if you need one.  Flu season can start as early as September, and since it takes two weeks to build immunity after getting the vaccine, you'll want to be fully protected during the peak of flu season.  You'll want the immunity to cover you through the worst of the season, and many experts say that getting your vaccine in late October is optimal timing to carry you through the winter months. Getting it earlier may allow immunity to wane before flu season ends.

While last year's shot covered limited strains and had lower efficacy than usual, some protection is better than no protection at all.  People who get the flu shot and then get the flu usually get a milder version, and are less subject to serious complications like pneumonia.  If you or your children are serious needle-phobes, the FluMist vaccine is available again for 2018.  It's not been as effective as the shot, but again, some protection is better than none.

Previously-healthy people can and do die from the flu, and the 2017-2018 season had a record pediatric death rate from influenza.  

It is not possible to get the flu from the flu vaccine, as the virus is inactivated (and can't be reactivated).  What you may experience are flu-like symptoms, which are a result of the immune response provoked by the vaccine - it's still way less severe than the flu, and not life-threatening.


If you have questions about the flu or the flu vaccine, please ask!
3 Responses
207091 tn?1337709493
I always thought it was better to get the vaccine in later November, because then it doesn't weaken as much if there is a late flu season. No?

What about the thing about getting the flu from the flu vaccine?
It's a bit of a gamble no matter when you decide to get it.  If you wait until late November and the season starts early, you're not protected during that time.  But, if you get it too early, immunity may wane during the worst months.  In general, you'll want to watch for trends, and see when the height of the flu season is in your area.  If you're in colder climates, January, February, and March are the worst months, but it can remain epidemic into Spring, so waiting a little longer may be better.  If you're in a warmer climate, the season is likely to pass more quickly.  Flu tends to spread because more people are clustered indoors  (in confined spaces) when it's cold outside.

You absolutely can't get the flu from the vaccine.  It is not a live virus.  However, if you are exposed to the flu before getting the vaccine, or during the two-week period when you are building immunity, you can still get the flu.  While your body is building immunity, your immune system is learning to recognize the flu virus, which may cause you to experience mild, flu-like symptoms.  You are not contagious with the flu during that time, as you do not actually HAVE the flu.  You're having an immune response, which is what happens when your body is "training" to fight off the actual flu, should you come in contact with it.

Here's a great article that dispels some myths, like getting the flu from the vaccine: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/10-flu-myths
Thanks. I'm definitely in a warmer climate, so that helps.

20620809 tn?1504362969
I was never big on the flu vaccine but have gotten talked into it in the recent years. I look at it as peace of mind now.  Even if you get the flu, it's usually much milder if you've had the vaccine.  As a parent and knowing I have to take care of everybody, that's important to me.

I do feel crummy when I get the vaccine.  I've had a low grade fever. I take ibuprofen and it's usually fine. Wonder if that is real or psychological.

Do you all get your kids vaccinated?
I don't have kids, but my niece and nephews all get vaccinated.

Last year, I got the flu shot, my roommate did not. We both got the flu. I was sick for a week. She was sick for at least 3 weeks, and she got bronchitis and a sinus infection on top of it. I felt tired and achy, and she missed almost a week and a half of work, and should have missed more.

1081992 tn?1389903637
Hi, can you say a sentence or two about how an inactivated virus differs from a live one?
Sure.  Viruses, unlike some bacteria, can only continue to be viable and replicate inside of a living host that meets the virus' conditions for survival.  They make you sick by rapidly replicating.

Inactivated viruses have either been exposed to a chemical which negates the virus' ability to infect, or exposed to heat at a temperature that renders it inactive.  Once it's inactive, it CANNOT re-activate and replicate, which is why you can't get the flu from the vaccine.

Some vaccines are made using live viruses, like the measles vaccine, are live viruses, but they are a weakened version that can only replicate about 20 times (as opposed to thousands of times).  Live virus vaccines tend to work better, and provide longer immunity, but the downside is they can't be given to people who are immunocompromised, like those with cancer or AIDS.
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