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 its serious complications like hospitalization. For children, getting an annual flu vaccine can even be lifesaving.
A flu vaccine can still reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and even dying from it. In addition, 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, as they are both expected to be spreading this fall/winter.
The 2021-22 Flu Season
The 2021-22 flu season is here. Flu is unpredictable, but flu activity in the U.S. often begins to increase in October and most of the time it peaks between December and February. Here is what you need to know:
- You CAN get your flu vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine, though it’s recommended you get them in different arms (in case your arms get sore from the shots). This is good, because the flu season is expected to happen alongside the spreading of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated against BOTH flu and COVID is important to help protect yourself and your loved ones.
- Last flu season was very mild, but experts are concerned that we may see increased flu activity this season especially as strict COVID-prevention measures, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and school closures, are being relaxed in many places. 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 flu activity – and related hospitalizations and deaths – in the U.S.
- 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. All available flu vaccines this year will be quadrivalent, which means they will provide protection from four circulating flu strains. Vaccines will be available as shots or nasal spray. There are also vaccines created specifically for older adults to help provide stronger immunity. The CDC does not recommend any flu vaccine over another.
- When should you get your flu shot? Get vaccinated BY THE END OF OCTOBER if possible. While flu activity may be low in your community now, it could begin increasing at any time and you want to be protected when it starts to spread. After you get your flu vaccine, your body takes 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.
Talk to your trusted healthcare provider about which flu vaccine(s) is right for you and your family. Make a plan now to get vaccinated before the flu starts spreading.
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.
- Help you and your family members prevent serious flu illness and flu-related complications, including hospitalization and death.*
- Help protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness and flu-related complications due to their age and/or certain chronic health conditions.
- 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.
Antiviral drugs are also available for treatment of the flu. 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.
But, not everyone needs to get antivirals. The people recommended to get antivirals are those who are at higher risk of complications and severe illness from flu including those 65 years and older, young children, pregnant women, 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 vaccination (for people 12+), here are some other things you can do to 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 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.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces in your home.
- Follow CDC’s guidance on masks
- Keep these items on hand when venturing out of your house: 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?
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Is the flu dangerous for pregnant people?
Which health conditions put me at higher risk of getting a serious flu illness and flu-related complications?
Should I get a Flu Shot if I Have Cancer or I am a Cancer Survivor?
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.