Coronavirus

Flu shot: who should get it and when?

Health experts recommend getting a flu vaccine and say it is more important than ever during 2020-2021 to protect yourself and the people around you from flu.

Flu shot: who should get it and when?
Brian Snyder REUTERS

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza.

Flu vaccination has important benefits. It can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. Health experts recommend getting a flu vaccine and say it is more important than ever during 2020-2021 to protect yourself and the people around you from flu, and to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Different flu vaccines for use in different groups of people

There are flu shots approved for use in children as young as 6 months old and flu shots approved for use in adults 65 years and older.

Flu shots also are recommended and approved for use in pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions. The nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in non-pregnant individuals who are 2 years through 49 years of age. People with some certain medical conditions should not receive the nasal spray flu vaccine.

Who should not receive a flu shot?

Factors that can determine a person’s suitability for vaccination, or vaccination with a particular vaccine, include a person’s age, health (current and past) and any relevant allergies.

When should I get vaccinated?

You should get a flu vaccine before flu viruses begin spreading in your community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu. Make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. However, getting vaccinated early, for example, in July or August, is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults. Vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later. 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.