Are some people more at risk of catching the flu?
I recommend the vaccine for nearly everyone, and especially for people who are more vulnerable to the flu — including children under 5, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. We are also particularly worried about patients with chronic diseases, such as pulmonary illnesses like severe asthma, or heart disease. These are the people who are most at risk for developing severe flu and ending up in the hospital. It is also important for people who are more likely to be exposed to the flu — like teachers, parents, day care workers, and health care workers — to be protected.
How about kids?
Now that children are back in school and families are gathering again, there is going to be more exposure to the flu. Kids are often how a virus gets into a household, because they are around other kids and more likely to catch it. So even if the adults may be being careful, this could be a big year for the flu because it’s going to be generated by kids who are going to come home and give it to their parents.
The vaccine will keep families and kids safe — especially multigenerational families.
When is the best time to get the flu vaccine?
The ideal time to get the flu shot is somewhere in the range of late September to end of November. And the absolute ideal is probably between mid-October and mid-November. That’s because in New York the flu season typically begins toward mid-to-late December. We know that the flu shot takes about two weeks for it to start working, so this way you’ll be well protected by the time flu season starts.
And a flu vaccine is necessary every year because it provides protection for only one season.
Where can you get the flu vaccine?
The vaccine is the same wherever you go, whether it’s a chain pharmacy, independent pharmacy, a health clinic, or your doctor’s office. For people who are over the age of 65 or especially vulnerable, we recommend the high dose — or adjuvanted — flu shot, which is a slightly higher dose and offers stronger protection. If you meet those criteria, we do prefer it.
I get a lot of people asking me, “If it’s only 40% or 50% effective, why should I bother with it?” And the answer is: Any protection is better than none. Before COVID-19, during flu season in January and February, sometimes half or more of the medical ICU was people with influenza-related pneumonia. Flu shots give you even more protection from bad complications of flu.