When Should You Get Your Flu Shot This Year?

As per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the months of December through February are considered the height of flu season. Although most rampant throughout the fall and winter months, influenza infection can occur at any time of the year. The CDC estimates that from the start of October of 2021 through mid-June 2022, there have been as many as 13 million cases of the flu across the country, as well as an estimated 5,000 to 14,000 flu-related deaths.

Characterized by fever, muscle aches, chills, headache, dry cough, sore throat, a runny nose, and more, some people are more susceptible to severe cases of the flu than others, reports the Mayo Clinic. Such individuals include babies, young children, those with reduced immunity or pre-existing health conditions, those who are pregnant or have recently given birth, as well as older adults.

Experts say that receiving a yearly flu vaccine is one of the best ways to protect yourself from infection (per Mayo Clinic). Vaccination may be of particular importance this year, as health officials anticipate an increase in flu case numbers compared to those seen during the last two years (via Healthline). Chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California Davis Children's Hospital, Dr. Dean Blumberg, tells Healthline, "I worry about it because I think with all the social distancing and mask wearing people have not been getting infected, which is a great thing, but they also haven't been building up immunity."

Should you receive the flu vaccine early?

Because the flu season spans several months, the timing of vaccination is important. Ed Belongia, the director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, told STAT News that influenza vaccine immunity decreases roughly 8% per month. Therefore, it's important to refrain from getting vaccinated too early in order to prolong protection.

Although there is the potential for flu season to arrive early this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently encourages individuals to receive the vaccine in September or by the end of October at the latest. For some, however, early vaccination may be warranted. For example, the CDC suggests that children may get vaccinated as early as July or August, especially if they will be in need of two doses. Those who are in their third trimester of pregnancy may also be a good fit for early vaccination in order to help build infant immunity. Adults over the age of 65, however, should not receive the flu vaccine early as waning immunity may put them at risk for severe infection later in the season. If you are considering early flu vaccination, do consult with your doctor.