(NEXSTAR) – With the heat of summer gone and flu season looming, you may be wondering if there’s an ideal time to get the flu vaccine to maximize your protection.
“Influenza is a very serious disease, and during a normal flu season, around 40,000 or more people die from it,” infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, MD told the Cleveland Clinic. “So, with any preventable disease, we should do everything we can to protect ourselves.”
So when should one get the vaccine?
“The timing of the flu vaccine is always tricky,” University of California, San Francisco epidemiologist George Rutherford, MD told Nexstar. “You’d like to get it a couple weeks before you need it, but the question is when do you need it? For instance, I’m going to Europe next week so I’ve already gotten my mine already because I think I could be exposed while I’m there.”
Rutherford said that getting the shot potentially earlier than you need it far outweighs the risk of waiting too long and getting the flu without the vaccine’s added protection.
Rutherford added that even if you feel like you might already be sick with a virus of some kind, you shouldn’t let that stop you from getting the vaccine. Nor should you have any concern about getting both the flu and latest COVID-19 vaccine on the same day.
Dr. Englund recommends getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available, which is at the beginning of September for the Cleveland Clinic.
“There are some treatments available for the flu that are evolving,” Dr. Englund says. “But to avoid the disease altogether or to only have a mild case because you’ve been vaccinated is much better than trying to treat it. Prevention is best.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say most people who require only one dose per flu season, they should get the vaccine in September or October, but added that providers should offer the vaccine as long as the influenza viruses are still circulating.
While the majority of people should not be getting the vaccine in the summer months of July and August, exceptions may be made for children and women in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Dr. Englund says the flu vaccine could be especially vital this year.
“We’re going to have influenza, RSV and COVID-19 coexisting and there’s a lot of overlap between the symptoms,” she states. “We also anticipate that there will be some people who have co-infections, which could be difficult.”