- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
It's officially flu season. Here's how to optimize the timing of your flu shot.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone 6 months and older should get their flu shot every season, with a few rare exceptions.
While the flu has a reputation of being mild, that is not the case for many people. The flu kills tens of thousands of people every year ― the CDC noted that it has caused “12,000-52,000 deaths annually between 2010 and 2020.”
Below, vaccine experts share when to get your flu shot this year and why it’s important to get the jab.
Does everyone need to get a flu shot?
Yes. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, we now know just how important vaccination is to stop the spread of a virus. As we live through another virus-filled fall, it’s important to be as protected as possible against both COVID-19 and the flu.
“Joint infection is difficult to manage, even [for] people who are otherwise not at high risk,” Dr. Bert E. Johansson, a vaccine expert with the National Hispanic Medical Association, previously told HuffPost. In other words, you really don’t want to get infected with COVID-19 and the flu at once, which is entirely possible.
Cases of the flu went down when people were required to wear masks, explained Johansson, but since mask mandates ended, cases have increased. In fact, 2022 saw a winter flu surge ahead of the holiday season, with cases in the U.S. reaching a 10-year high.
Your flu shot protects more people than you think.
Not only does your flu shot protect you, but it shields those around you. While you may experience a mild case of the flu, that doesn’t mean those around you will have the same luck.
“People, unfortunately, [have] gotten used to saying it’s just the flu,” Johansson said, but “influenza is a killer” and “tends to kill the young and the elderly,” along with people with diseases like asthma and COPD.
So, while it’s easy to say, “oh, I’ve never gotten the flu vaccine and I’m fine,” it’s crucial to remember that by vaccinating yourself, you’re reducing the risk that the flu will infect someone who may not be fine.
“There were some really great studies [that] show when you vaccinate children, you decrease the likelihood of influenza in the elderly,” he said. “I tell people, ‘don’t necessarily get it for yourself, get it for your grandmother or your grandfather.’”
It's important to get a flu shot whether you're at risk for severe infection or not.
The best time to get the flu shot is now.
“People should get their influenza vaccine as soon as it’s available in their community,” Johansson said. “That’s usually in September.”
While we see the flu year-round, it increases in October and November, and then peaks in February, he explained. So, you’ll want to make sure you’re protected by the time cases begin to rise, which means getting a shot as early as you can so your body has time to build up immunity.
But, even if you don’t get your flu shot right away, it’s still important to get your shot eventually.
Say you don’t get it this second: That’s OK. It’s still valuable to get later into the fall, too.
“The flu vaccines we want people to get in September — or by the end of October,” Dr. Jodie Guest, the senior vice chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, told HuffPost in a recent interview.
But overall: Any time is a good time to get your flu shot rather than not getting it at all.
While earlier in the season may be preferable, “if you have the opportunity to get it in December, get it,” Johansson said. Either way, you’re adding to your community’s flu protection and looking out for yourself, too.
You can get the flu shot at the same time you get the new COVID booster.
A new COVID shot is now available to everyone 6 months and older. The updated vaccine targets more current COVID subvariants, offering protection against serious outcomes like hospitalization and death. The jab “will work really well against all of the variants that we currently have circulating in the United States and across the world,” Guest said.
It’s perfectly safe to get your flu shot at the same time as your new COVID booster, Johansson said. “You can get the shots together, one in each arm.”
And if you are a person who is uneasy about needles or shots, it may actually be good to just have one appointment for both if that’s more of a guarantee that you’ll get them.
So, talk to your doctor about getting your flu shot so you can have a plan before cases really begin to soar.
A previous version of this story appeared in 2022.