Yearly influenza (flu) vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Getting a flu vaccine each year is the best way to help prevent flu and its serious complications. In children, getting a flu vaccine can even be lifesaving!*
The flu season is unpredictable. While we know the flu is going to spread each year, the exact timing and length of each flu season can vary. Flu activity often begins to increase in the U.S. in October. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. But even if you or your family members didn’t get vaccinated yet this season, its not too late. The flu vaccine will still provide benefits, and is the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications.
Benefits of Flu Vaccination
Even if the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, getting the flu vaccine every year is still very important and has a lot of benefits. Getting the flu vaccine can:
- Keep you from getting sick with flu.
- Help you get back on your feet sooner if you do get sick with the flu.
- Reduce the risk of children dying from flu.*
- Reduce the risk of serious flu complications like hospitalization for children and adults.
- Help protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness and complications due to age and/or certain chronic health conditions.
- Protect women during and after pregnancy.
*A 2017 study published in Pediatrics showed that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from the flu. The study found that half of flu-related deaths in children from 2010 to 2016 occurred in otherwise healthy children – only 22% of these children were fully vaccinated. Nearly 2/3 of children died within seven days of developing symptoms.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication that can cause hospitalization or death. Flu season is good time for people 65 and older, and people with certain chronic conditions, to check with their healthcare provider about pneumococcal vaccinations.
Types of Flu Vaccines
Every year, new flu vaccines are created to help protect against the flu viruses that research shows will be most common during the upcoming season. There are different kinds of flu vaccines this season available including flu shots and nasal spray. Most of the flu vaccines available this season in the U.S. contain four influenza viruses. The two flu vaccines specifically for people 65 and older (High-Dose Fluzone and FLUAD) contain three influenza viruses.
Both CDC and AAP recommend that people get vaccinated with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine. They don’t recommend any one flu vaccine over another.
When to Get the Flu Vaccine
The CDC recommends that you and your family members get a flu vaccine by the end of October each year. Since it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide protection, it is best for you and your family members to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in your community.
If you were not able to get vaccinated in early fall, it is not too late. Getting the flu vaccine later in the season is still beneficial.
Some children 6 months through 8 years of age will require two doses of flu vaccine for protection from flu. Children who need two doses of flu vaccine should start the vaccination process as soon as the flu vaccine is available because the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart, and you want to be certain that your children have as much protection as possible before flu begins spreading in your community.
Other Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Family
In addition to getting the flu vaccine, your family should take everyday precautions:
- Cover your cough and sneeze
- Wash your hands often
- Stay home from work and/or school when sick, and stay away from sick people
Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Xofluza are also available for treatment of the flu. If taken early (AS SOON AS YOUR SYMPTOMS BEGIN), antivirals can lessen symptoms, shorten duration of illness, and help prevent severe illness and flu complications.
But, not everyone needs to get antivirals. The people recommended to get antivirals are those who are at higher risk of complications and severe illness from flu including those 65 years and older, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. CDC recommends that healthcare providers treat patients with antivirals as soon as they suspect flu, and should not wait for confirmation from lab tests. Learn more.
Flu Activity in the U.S. (Updated on January 28 2020)
According to the CDC, flu activity is high across the country. So far during the current flu season, there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths – including 54 children – from flu. View the CDC’s FluView to monitor current flu activity in the U.S.
Learn more about flu, its symptoms, and the vaccine that helps prevent it.