When it comes to timing and severity, flu is kind of unpredictable: there’s no way to predict what flu season might bring. Flu season can begin in October and last well into May, usually peaking between December and February.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. It’s extremely important for those at high risk of serious flu complications to get a flu vaccination. This high risk group includes: young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, and people aged 65 years and older.
It’s a good idea to get vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, helping to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get a flu vaccine somewhere else, like a health department, pharmacy, urgent care clinic, and often your school, college health center, or work.
Influenza vaccine effectiveness can vary from year to year and among different age and risk groups. Though it's not possible to perfectly predict what viruses will circulate during the upcoming season, antibodies made in response to vaccination with one flu virus can sometimes provide protection against different but related viruses.
It's important to remember that the flu vaccine contains three or four flu viruses (depending on the type of vaccine you receive) so that even when there is a less than ideal match or lower effectiveness against one virus, the vaccine may protect against the other viruses. Though it is still possible to catch influenza after you’ve received your flu shot, flu vaccination is the best way to protect against flu infection.
In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine if you have not already gotten vaccinated, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.
Remember: it’s hard to take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. It’s never too late to get a flu vaccine!