A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older (including pregnant people). Getting a flu vaccine every year is the BEST way to help prevent flu and serious related complications like hospitalization. For children, getting an annual flu vaccine can even be lifesaving.
Every year in the U.S., flu typically results in millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths. Everyone is at risk from flu – even healthy children and adults. A flu vaccine can reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and even dying from it. Getting your flu vaccine will also help keep you out of the hospital, leaving the beds for COVID-19 patients and others who need them. You can get sick with COVID-19 and flu at the same time because they are both currently circulating.
The 2021-22 Flu Season
The 2021-22 flu season is here! Flu activity is unpredictable, but often begins in October and generally peaks between December and February. Currently, flu activity across the U.S. is increasing and is expected to continue to increase.
Here is what you need to know:
- Flu activity across the U.S. is increasing and is expected to continue to increase. This is likely a result of relaxed COVID prevention measures, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and school closures, among other factors. Flu is still a major public health threat and poses a risk to everyone, including healthy children, teens, adults and pregnant individuals. Visit CDC’s FluView to monitor current flu activity – and related hospitalizations and deaths – in the U.S.
- You CAN get your flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine. If you’re worried about a sore arm, you can get these vaccines in different arms. Flu and COVID-19 are currently circulating at the same time, so it’s important to be protected against both viruses. Getting vaccinated against BOTH flu and COVID is important to help protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Important note: A flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID and a COVID vaccine will not protect you from flu.
- All available flu vaccines are quadrivalent, meaning they help protect against four circulating flu strains, including influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2) and influenza B (Victoria and Yamagata strains). Every year, new flu vaccines are created to help protect against the flu viruses that research shows will be most common during the upcoming season. Vaccines are available as shots or nasal spray. There are also vaccines created specifically for older adults (65+) to help provide stronger immunity. The CDC does not recommend any flu vaccine over another. Talk to a trusted healthcare provider to determine which flu vaccine is right for you and your family.
- It’s not too late to vaccinate! Flu vaccination is generally recommended by the end of October, but vaccination in later months (November through January and even February) is still beneficial if it occurs BEFORE flu starts spreading in your community. Following vaccination, it takes your body about 2 weeks to build immunity (protection) from flu. A few exceptions:
- Some children 6 months through 8 years need 2 doses of flu vaccine (spaced at least 4 weeks apart). You want your child to have their second dose at least 2 weeks before flu starts spreading in your community. Ask your child’s healthcare provider how many doses your child needs, and be sure to get your child a second dose if they need one.
- Pregnant people can safely get a flu shot during any trimester, but pregnant individuals in their 3rd trimester should get a flu shot as soon as possible, as this will help protect both them and their babies from serious flu illness and related complications. Pregnant individuals should not get the nasal spray flu vaccine. Flu shots have been safely given to pregnant women for many years, and their safety continues to be carefully monitored through the U.S. vaccine safety monitoring systems. Learn more.
- Flu vaccines are available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, health clinics, local health departments, grocery stores, and schools. For help finding a flu vaccine near you, go to vaccines.gov
- Flu vaccines are often free if you have private insurance.
- If you’re uninsured, underinsured, or have Medicaid or Medicare, visit our Paying for Vaccines online tool to find out how to pay for your family’s vaccinations.
Benefits of Flu Vaccination
Getting a flu vaccine every year is very important. Getting a flu vaccine can:
- Keep you from getting sick with flu. Flu vaccination has been shown to make illness milder in people who get vaccinated and still get sick.
- Help prevent serious flu illness and flu-related complications, including hospitalization and death.*
- Help protect people around you, including vulnerable individuals. Certain people may be at a higher risk from serious flu illness and flu-related complications due to their age and/or certain chronic health conditions. People living with chronic lung disease, cancer, heart disease and diabetes are at a higher risk for severe flu-related complications. For the 2021-22 season, top health organizations including the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association are urging individuals over six months old to get their annual flu shot. Visit heart.org/flu to learn more.
- Pneumococcal pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication that can cause hospitalization or death. Flu season is a good time for people 65 and older, and people with certain chronic conditions, to check with their healthcare provider about pneumococcal and other vaccinations.
- Flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease.
- Flu vaccination also has been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations related to diabetes and chronic lung disease.
- Protect pregnant individuals AND their babies – during and after pregnancy.
*A 2017 study published in Pediatrics showed that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from the flu. The study found that half of flu-related deaths in children from 2010 to 2016 occurred in otherwise healthy children, and only 22% of these children were fully vaccinated. Nearly 2/3 of children died within seven days of developing symptoms. See these emergency warning signs of serious flu illness in children from our partners at Families Fighting Flu.
If you do get sick with flu, antiviral drugs – which are prescription medications – are a treatment option. If taken early – within 48 hours of your symptoms starting – antivirals can lessen your flu symptoms, shorten duration of illness, and help prevent severe flu illness and its complications. Antivirals are not a substitute for annual flu vaccination.
CDC recommends prompt treatment for people who have flu or suspected flu and who are at higher risk of serious flu complications, including those 65 years and older, young children, pregnant individuals, and people with chronic health conditions. CDC recommends that healthcare providers treat patients with antivirals as soon as they suspect flu, and should not wait for confirmation from lab tests. Learn more.
Things You Can Do to Help Keep Yourself and Your Family Healthy – Now and During Flu Season
In addition to getting your flu vaccine every year and your COVID vaccines (for people 5+), here are some other ways you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from dangerous contagious diseases:
- If you are sick, stay away from other people as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your elbow.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces in your home.
- Follow CDC’s current guidance on masks.
- Keep these items on hand when venturing outside of your home: a face mask, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if possible.
Common Questions About Flu Vaccines
Can a flu vaccine give me the flu?
Why do some people not feel well or feel like they have flu symptoms after getting a flu vaccine?
Are flu vaccines safe?
Is the flu dangerous for pregnant people?
Which health conditions put me at higher risk of serious flu illness and flu-related complications?
Should I get a flu shot if I have cancer or am a cancer survivor?
Does my age or race/ethnicity put me at high risk for flu complications?
Will this flu season be mild like last year?
Are flu vaccines effective?
Are there different types of seasonal flu vaccines?
Is flu really more serious than the common cold?
Can I still get a flu vaccine if I have an egg allergy?
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
Learn more about flu, its symptoms, and the vaccines that help prevent it. To share information about flu and flu vaccination with your friends and family, click the link below to view and download VYF’s social media graphics and handouts.