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 hospitalizations. 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. (And, yes, you can get sick with COVID-19 and flu at the same time and are both expected to be spreading at the same time this fall).
The 2020-21 Flu Season
According to the CDC, seasonal flu activity in the United States during the 2020-21 was uncommonly low. There are a number of possible reasons for this including the fact that – due to COVID-19 – during much of the flu season, many people were social distancing, wearing masks, school closures, and staying home more often. All of these prevention tools, which help to stop COVID-19 from spreading, likely also helped the flu viruses from spreading.
The 2021-22 Flu Season
The 2021-22 flu season is right around the corner. Flu season is unpredictable but activity often begins to increase in October and most of the time flu activity 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 this season we may see increased flu activity as strict prevention measures 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.
- 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 doesn’t recommend any flu vaccine over another.
- When should you get your flu shot? Get vaccinated BY THE END OF OCTOBER. 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:
- Children 6 months through 8 years old, who never got a flu vaccine or previously received 2 doses or fewer during their lifetime, should get 2 doses of flu vaccine this season (spaced at least 4 weeks apart). The 2nd dose should be given before the end of October. Be sure to get your child a second dose if they need one.
- Pregnant individuals in their 3rd trimester should get a flu vaccine as soon as it’s available, 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.
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!
Visit CDC’s FluView to monitor flu activity – and related hospitalizations and deaths – in the U.S.
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 reduce your risk of 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 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 – 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.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication that can cause hospitalization or death. Flu season is good time for people 65 and older, and people with certain chronic conditions, to check with their healthcare provider about pneumococcal vaccinations.
Antiviral drugs are also available for treatment of the flu. If taken early (AS SOON AS YOUR SYMPTOMS BEGIN), antivirals can lessen symptoms, shorten duration of illness, and help prevent severe illness and flu 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?
Learn more about flu, its symptoms, and the vaccines that help prevent it.