The weather is starting to change, and that means dealing with the familiar issues with colds and flu as well as getting the flu vaccine. Between October of last year and this past January, there were 13 million people sick with flu, over 6 million doctor visits, and up to 170,000 hospitalizations. At the moment, flu activity is low but rising, so getting the vaccine will help stay ahead of any serious strains of the virus this season.
But if you don’t get the vaccine now, when is too late to get it? Should you get it in the fall, or can you get the shot in the winter and be okay? Let’s explore this by looking at when flu season starts, how long the vaccine lasts, and the latest time you can get the flu shot. If you live in the Little River, South Carolina area and you’re dealing with the flu or need the vaccine, Dr. Rogers Walker and his skilled team at Walker Urgent & Family Care can help.
Although the absolute time of the season is fluid and seasonal viruses are around all year, the flu season generally starts in the fall. Seasonal flu activity starts to intensify in October and often peaks as late as February, though the virus can be active into the spring (as late as May). Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks specific strains of the virus to predict which strain is going to be the one to look out for and creates vaccines to prepare for those strains to be prevalent in the upcoming season.
The vaccine lasts for about six months, making the optimal time frame for a shot to be effective between the point when the virus starts increasing in activity (in October) and the following April. Once vaccinated, the shot often takes about two weeks to be effective, then lasts for the six-month period after. The effectiveness can differ depending on the age group, with people over 65 having the vaccine wear off sooner because of the immune response weakening as we get older.
This is also why you normally get the flu vaccine once a year, because the virus is most active in the aforementioned timeframe, so having the shot in the fall helps keep you protected from most strains throughout its peak period.
Even though the early fall is the recommended time frame to get vaccinated (around September or October), the virus is active until spring, so it’s never too late to get it. It simply means it'll be effective for less time during peak viral activity. So if you got too busy and missed the early fall window and didn’t have the time, you’re still in luck. Most places will offer the vaccines throughout the season, so unless there’s a shortage, they will be available.
Whether you get the flu shot at the start of the season or the dead of winter, neither time is too late to get vaccinated. If you haven’t gotten your shot, make an appointment with Dr. Walker and Walker Urgent & Family Care today to get protection from the flu this season.