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No, It’s Really Not Too Late to Get Your Flu Shot

Prevention logo Prevention 6 days ago Karen Pallarito
Is the flu vaccine effective if you get it later in the flu season? A doctor explains what to keep in mind if you get your flu vaccine after October. © Mitch Blunt - Getty Images Is the flu vaccine effective if you get it later in the flu season? A doctor explains what to keep in mind if you get your flu vaccine after October.

If you haven’t had a flu shot this season, what are you waiting for? Every state in the nation has already seen sporadic cases of this seasonal scourge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. But if the trick-or-treat crowd rang and ran before you and your family got your shots, don’t be spooked-it’s not too late. The flu season has only just begun and won’t wrap up until April.

Get it now, because if you procrastinate, you may regret it. “The longer you wait, the more likely you are to get the flu,” says Sean McNeeley, MD, board president of the Urgent Care Association and medical director at University Hospital Urgent Care Network in Cleveland. If you’ve ever had the flu before, “it’s just not something you ever want to get again,” he adds.

That’s because the symptoms of the flu are pretty unpleasant. You’ll likely be dealing with a fever, stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, or headaches. Not to mention, you up your risk of health complications if you catch the flu, especially if you already have a chronic health condition. Just last season, the CDC estimates that more than 80,000 people died from flu, while more than 900,000 were hospitalized.

Health care providers will be offering flu shots well into January and beyond because flu season can extend as late as May. Here are a few good reasons to go forth with the vaccine, even after October 31st.

You’ll build infection-fighters

It takes two weeks for the flu shot to produce enough antibodies for your body to flight off the flu. If you get your shot today and there’s a flu outbreak two weeks later, you’ll be fine, “so you should still get it if you haven’t gotten it,” Dr. McNeeley says.

You’ll be protected for months

Flu season generally peaks anytime from late November through March, according to the CDC. If you get your shot now, you’ll likely be protected for months to come.

Your risk of health complications goes down

The flu vaccine isn’t foolproof, Dr. McNeeley points out. You might still get a mild case of the flu. But if you’re not vaccinated and you get the flu, the health implications are much worse. “Your risk of death, your risk of severe disease, your risks of hospitalization-all the bad things that happen from flu-is much less if you get the shot,” he says.

Lots of locations give the shot for free

There are lots of places you can go to get a flu shot. Call your primary care physician or your child’s pediatrician for an appointment. If you work, your employer may offer free or low-cost flu shots onsite or at the worksite clinic. College kids can contact the campus health service. Many local pharmacies and big-box retailers administer the flu vaccine. Or find an urgent care center near you.

You’ll learn a lesson

If you were unfortunate enough to contract the flu in October, there’s no point in lining up for a shot this season. But make sure you don’t miss the boat next season!

The bottom line: It’s not too late to get your flu shot unless you have already had the flu this season. Get one as soon as you are able to minimize your risk.

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