’Tis nearly the season for lovely foliage, pumpkin spice, and, unfortunately, the flu. And because the flu doesn’t stop for anything—not even an unrelated pandemic—this means we should all get our flu shots soon.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), getting the vaccine in July or August is too early, since it could decrease in efficacy toward the end of flu season. September and October, on the other hand, “are good times to get vaccinated,” the CDC says. That goes for everyone over 6 months old, unless directed otherwise by your doctor. If you can’t make it to a vaccination station during those months, "better late than never" works, too—the CDC says you should still get your flu shot any time through January or even later.
NPR reports that doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and supermarkets should start receiving flu vaccines early this month. And because the current pandemic has altered and/or delayed our normal processes, you might need to find a new way to get vaccinated this year.
“If you usually get the shot at the office but you’re working from home, for example, you’ll need a new plan,” RAND Corporation senior policy researcher Lori Uscher-Pines tells NPR. “And if you usually drop in to the pharmacy or the supermarket for your shot while you’re out and about anyway, you’ll need a new plan this year if, these days, you’re just not ‘out and about.’”
In other words, right now is the best time to find out where you can get your flu shot and then make an appointment to do so. The importance of getting vaccinated this year goes beyond just keeping you healthy—it’s also critical for us to put as little pressure as possible on our healthcare system, which is currently overloaded with COVID-19 patients. And even if you can recover from the flu at home, you might pass on the disease to someone who requires hospitalization.
Furthermore, the dangers of having COVID-19 and the flu simultaneously are still unknown. As Harvard Global Health Institute director Dr. Ashish Jha tells NPR, “We don’t know yet whether that could compound either illness, but why take the risk?”