Too Late for a Flu Shot?
Although the flu season lasts from October until May, with most cases occurring between late December and early March, the flu vaccine is usually offered between September and mid-November. Getting the shot before the flu season is in full force gives the body a chance to build up immunity to, or protection from, the virus.
Even though it's ideal to get vaccinated early, the flu shot can still be helpful later. Even as late as January, there are still a few months left in the flu season, so it's still a good idea to get protected.
Who Should Get the Flu Shot?
Although flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 6 months or older, in times when the vaccine is in short supply, certain people need it more than others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) often will recommend that certain high-risk groups be given priority when flu shot supplies are limited. Call your doctor or local public health department about vaccine availability in your area.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the CDC recommend that certain high-risk groups be given priority for receiving the flu shot in times of shortage:
- all kids 6 months through 4 years old
- anyone 65 years and older
- women who will be pregnant during flu season
- anyone whose weakened immune system is weakened from medications or illnesses (like HIV infection)
- residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes
- any adult or child with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma
- kids or teens who take aspirin regularly and are at risk for developing Reye syndrome if they get the flu
- health care personnel who have direct contact with patients
- caregivers or household contacts of anyone in a high-risk group (like children younger than 6 months)
- Native Americans and Alaskan Natives
Ideally, kids and adults should be immunized in October so they're adequately protected before flu season hits.
Kids under 9 years old who are getting the flu shot for the first time will receive two separate shots at least a month apart. Those under 9 who have received the flu vaccine before still might need two doses if they did not receive at least two vaccines since July 2010, or if the number of shots they've received since July 2010 is unknown. This is to ensure that all children are vaccinated against the H1N1 flu strain that surfaced in 2009. Kids older than 9 years old only need one dose of the vaccine.
It can take 1 to 2 weeks for the flu shot to become effective, so it's best to get vaccinated as soon as possible if your doctor thinks it's necessary.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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