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When should the influenza vaccine be given in the USA?

There is still time to get a flu shot as infection levels rise across the country to levels not seen since before the covid-19 pandemic.

As new variants, as delta emerge, vaccine efficacy seems to be dipping, leading the CDC to recommend a booster shot for certain high-risk groups.

Nearly 20,000 people are hospitalized with the flu in the US, with many public health experts warning of a worse-than-normal flu season that could put pressure on hospital systems a the number of covid-19 infections picks up as well. The positivity rate for flu tests increased from 18.2 percent, reported at the end of November, to over twenty-five percent this week. Like covid-19, the positivity rate indicates that the spread is not being controlled and that if you have flu-like symptoms, it is best to stay home and get tested if you are in a high-risk group.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue 
  • Vomiting and diarehea are also symptoms but tend to present more in children than adults. 

Source: CDC 

Additionally, with the respiratory syncytial virus also circulating, getting a flu shot will not eliminate your risk of getting sick, but it will lower your chances overall. With these three viruses circulating, hospitals are filling up, and with the holidays on the horizon, many worry that the situation could worsen.

When should you get a flu shot?

The CDC recommends getting a vaccine to protect against the flu in October each year which gives patients maximum protection against infection for the entirety of the flu season. That said, it is not too late, and those insured can receive a shot for free through their healthcare provider or at their local pharmacy. The tool offered by the CDC can help you find an appointment in your area to get your flu shot and a covid-19 vaccine or booster, should you want one.

The process for those without insurance is more complicated, but many counties offer free or reduced-cost vaccines. It is best to contact your county’s health department to see what they offer or if they plan to host a flu vaccine clinic with free shots available.

Read more on the topic: Are flu shots free without insurance?

Who should get a flu shot?

Tragically, the flu has already killed fourteen children, and many doctors and healthcare providers are encouraging parents and guardians to get them and their children vaccinated to prevent severe infection.

The CDC encourages all able to get a flu shot to do so but stresses the importance for high-risk groups, which include people over sixty-five, those with chronic health conditions, pregnant people, and young children.