The flu vaccine is your best protection, and it’s time to get it now

It’s October, which means flu season  is here. And that means it’s time to get vaccinated to protect yourself against the flu. Flu season can run from October to May, so if you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet this year, you should get one as soon as possible. It’s the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can be a serious infection.

Public health officials think this year’s vaccine, which is different from last year’s, is a good match for the flu strains that could be circulating, but it’s difficult to predict so early in the season. Flu viruses are constantly changing. Flu vaccines are updated before the start of flu season each year, based on which influenza viruses are making people sick in other parts of the world. This year’s trivalent vaccine offers protection for two type A influenza viruses, and one type B virus. An additional type B influenza virus is included in the vaccine that offers protection against four strains of the virus; that is called the quadrivalent vaccine.

No matter which vaccine you get, it’s important to get it each year because vaccination is still your best protection from a serious infection. In the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized annually from seasonal flu-related complications and between 3,000 and 49,000 people die each year, depending on the virus involved. Some flu viruses are more deadly than others.

Every flu season is unique, and flu viruses affect different people in different ways depending on age and overall health. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. It’s especially important that people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children and people older than 65 get vaccinated because they are at higher risk of having serious flu-related complications. Anyone who lives with or cares for very young babies or people who are at high risk for developing complications should also get vaccinated as soon as possible.

In spite of sometimes poor timing for illness, it’s not possible to get the flu from a vaccine. It takes up to two weeks after you receive the vaccine for your body to create the antibodies needed to combat the flu. While your body is building immunity, you could still get sick if you were infected before or during the two weeks after vaccination. You could also become infected with a strain of flu virus that isn’t covered by the vaccine. It’s important to remember that the vaccine reduces your risk, but it doesn’t completely eliminate it.

If you do get the flu, it’s still important to get the vaccine. You can develop short-term immunity to the specific flu virus you had, but there may be other flu viruses circulating in your area. And that means, unfortunately, that you could get the flu more than once in a season. Your best bet for protection against circulating viruses is to get vaccinated each year. There is plenty of vaccine available, so make an appointment for your flu vaccine today.

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