Is It Too Late for a Flu Shot?

Young man smiles in relief at pharmacist after flu vaccination

By Johanna Brotz, UWO Health Promotion Intern 

Promotions for yearly flu shots start a couple of months before flu season hits to ensure that people get vaccinated before they get sick. Because the promotions for flu shots stop shortly after the season has started, many people think that they cannot receive the vaccine after the month of November. There is not a deadline for the flu shot, receiving the flu vaccination later in the season protects you more than not receiving one at all. According to the CDC, the “seasonal flu disease usually peaks between December and March most years, but disease can occur as late as May”. Because there are a couple of months left yet for flu season, it is not too late to contact your primary physician or pharmacy to protect yourself for the last couple of months of flu season.

The reason flu vaccinations are promoted so heavily before the flu season is because it takes about 2 weeks for your immune system to recognize the virus and then build up an immunity by producing antibodies. By ensuring your body has enough time to do this, you are decreasing the likelihood of the development and spread of the flu.

Flu Activity is widespread in the U.S.

The flu vaccine each year contains strains of the flu that epidemiologists believe will be prevalent for that specific year. The flu virus is a very mutable- meaning that the strains mutate easily and they do yearly making the old antibodies from last year’s flu shot useless. Every year, these scientists basically make an educated guess on which strains to vaccinate for. Some years they guess accurately and the vaccine is more effective at preventing the flu than others.

  • Reduces the risk of you becoming sick with the flu (reduces medical costs and decreases amount of absences from work). If you receive the flu vaccine, you are about 60% less likely to need treatment for the flu (CDC)
  • Helps prevent flu transmission in the people around you that can’t fight off the flu easily (children, elders, and immunocompromised/chronic health patients)
  • Vaccination will protect you for the last couple of months left in the flu season (until March or May)
  • The southern hemisphere (Australia specifically) encountered a bad flu season this year so that is a good indication the northern hemisphere will as well

Fight-the-Flu

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year, but there are also other practices you can start to avoid the disease. Washing your hands vigorously for at least 15 seconds with soap and warm water is the second best way to prevent the spread of the flu. The flu virus mainly travels via droplets that are ejected when we sneeze, cough or even talk. By covering your mouth/nose while you sneeze or cough- you can help prevent spreading the flu.

Sore muscles/body, fever, chills, cough (dry or with phlegm), congestion, runny nose, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, dehydration, nausea, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to stay home and rest to fight off the virus. Avoid going out into the public and going to work to stop the spread of the flu. It is best to go and talk to your doctor sooner than later to avoid the progression of the symptoms and a fast recovery. Your doctor can prescribe whatever they feel will help you recover fastest (ex. Antihistamines and antiviral medications- Tamiflu is a common one).