Why You Should Get the Flu Vaccine
While seasonal influenza (flu) viruses are detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time, flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.
The flu vaccine (also known as “flu shot”) is a crucial way to protect yourself against the flu virus. Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions about the vaccine.
How likely am I to get the flu? What are some health consequences from getting the flu?
- 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu every year.
- An average of 200,000 Americans are hospitalized every year because of problems with the illness.
- Flu symptoms cause 31.4 million outpatient visits each year.
- 3,000 to 49,000 people die each year from flu-related causes in the U.S.
Why do I need an annual flu vaccine?
- It protects you against multiple variants of the flu.
- Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses. New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly adapting flu viruses.
- The body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is required for optimal protection.
- It helps prevent serious medical events associated with some chronic conditions.
- The vaccine also protects women during and after pregnancy.
Who should get vaccinated?
- Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions.
- People are at increased risk for complications from the flu, including pregnant women, adults age 65 and older, children younger than five years, and people with long-term health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or cancer.
When should I get my flu vaccine?
- Flu vaccines are typically available as early as August.
- The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October before the flu season gets underway.
- It takes about two weeks after being vaccinated for the antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
- Children who need two doses of vaccine to be protected should start the vaccination process sooner because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are free under most insurance plans and offered at doctors’ offices and clinics, health departments, pharmacies, and college health centers. Some employers and schools may even provide clinics to get your shot done. If you don’t have insurance, the shot is not very expensive, costing around $30 to $40 on average.
Is a flu vaccine 100 percent effective in preventing the flu?
While a flu vaccine is not guaranteed to prevent you from catching the flu, studies show it reduces the risk of flu illness by 40-60 percent among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.