The best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated every year. The ideal time to get vaccinated is usually September or October, before flu season kicks into high gear; however, getting a flu shot later may still provide protection since flu season typically peaks in January and last through about March.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers parents six reasons to follow the recommended vaccine schedule for children during the pandemic. Parents can take this CDC quiz to determine which vaccine a child may need.
Emergency physicians highly recommend that persons who are at high risk of having serious flu complications and people who live with or care for high flu-risk individuals (including home caregivers and health care workers) get vaccinated each year. Persons in high-risk groups include:
- Children six months old through age five.
- Pregnant women.
- Persons age 50 and older.
- Persons with chronic medical conditions.
- Persons in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The flu vaccine is generally available beginning in August or September and is distributed through health care providers, in-store clinics, schools and many places of employment. Check with your physician, your local government or community services center. Getting a flu shot can reduce most people’s chances of catching the flu by up to 80 percent during flu season. It isn’t a guarantee against getting sick, though—mainly because there are many viruses that can cause the flu, and the vaccine only protects against a handful of them. However, among those persons who do get the flu after receiving the flu shot, symptoms usually will be milder.
Although the flu shot does not prevent COVID-19, it's still a good idea to get vaccinated to protect yourself and prevent our health care system from becoming overstressed during the pandemic. The seasonal flu shot also does not offer protection against avian (or bird) flu.