Should I get a flu shot? Is it too late to get a flu shot?

You should get a flu shot. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. You can get the flu in every month of the year. It’s never too late to get a flu shot.

Flu season—the time when our cases of the virus peak—lasts from around October through March, and it takes about two weeks for our bodies to develop all the antibodies we’ll reap from vaccination. So yes, in a perfect world, you’d have gotten your flu shot in October.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s too late,” Mary Beth Griggs wrote for Popular Science last February. “It’s not like all flu activity instantly ceases the second the clock strikes 12:01 on March 1.”

“The CDC recommends that everyone over six months old get the flu shot. Infants are exempt because their immune systems haven’t fully developed, but the rest of you have no excuse. Yeah, even you, lady with an egg allergy.”

The 2017-2018 flu season is proving to be pretty severe, and it’s not over. Get your flu shot.

Won’t the flu shot give me the flu?

No, the flu shot will not give you the flu. That is not how the flu shot works.

“The flu vaccine works by presenting antigens to your immune system,” Popular Science reported in November. “Antigens are proteins that allow your white blood cells to recognize foreign objects inside your body, like viruses. You build up a natural immunity to viruses once infected, because your body learns to recognize them as dangerous—so if they return with a vengeance, your immune system is better prepared to fight back. Vaccines take advantage of this by providing very small amounts of antigens so that your white blood cells learn what the flu virus looks like.”

You should get a flu shot. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. You can get the flu in every month of the year. It’s never too late to get a flu shot.

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Data from CDC | Infographic by Sara Chodosh

 

Will the flu shot give my child autism?

No, the flu shot will not give your child autism. There is absolutely no evidence that the flu shot will give anyone autism. You should get a flu shot. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. You can get the flu in every month of the year. It’s never too late to get a flu shot.

There is absolutely no evidence that flu shots cause autism. Really. Seriously. Absolutely no evidence. Vaccinate your kids. If you’re pregnant and worried that the shot could somehow hurt your baby, the answer is the same: get your flu shot. There’s no evidence that flu shots can cause miscarriages or otherwise interfere with a child’s development. “In fact,” Sara Chodosh wrote for PopSci back in September, “there's some evidence that infections [like the flu] during pregnancy might even raise a fetus's risk of neurological conditions like autism and schizophrenia.” And pregnancy makes you even more likely to get a serious case of flu than the general population.

Isn’t the flu shot ineffective this year?

The flu vaccine is never 100 percent effective, and this year isn’t a great one. Scientists picked the right strains to put in the vaccine, but those particular flavors of the virus are particularly tricky to grow in the lab using currently available techniques. So even though our shots set out with the right strains of flu, they’ve mutated to the point where they’re not quite perfect copies.

But the flu shot can still protect you. It can lessen your symptoms and keep you from spreading the virus. You should get a flu shot. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. You can get the flu in every month of the year. It’s never too late to get a flu shot.

“Just because the shot is only 10 percent effective, that doesn’t mean it’s 90 percent useless,” PopSci reported in December. “The percentage indicates how much the shot reduces your risk of getting the disease, but it doesn’t reflect how much it can help you ward off the most severe symptoms. Even a mismatched vaccine gives your body some advantage when faced with the influenza virus, so getting the shot helps you regardless.”

In fact, having a less-than-perfect vaccine actually makes it even more useful to get vaccinated. We prevent the virus’s spread through herd immunity. That requires a certain number of people with protection from the disease. If some folks with vaccines will still get the flu, that means even more of us need the shot to get that blanket protection and keep the general population safe.

I’ve never gotten a flu shot, and I’ve never gotten the flu. I’m probably immune, right?

No, you are not immune. You are just lucky. The flu mutates into new strains constantly. That’s why we have to make a new vaccine every single year. It’s not possible for you to be immune to every strain, because the exact virus that’s trying to infect you hasn’t existed for most of your life. You should get a flu shot. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. You can get the flu in every month of the year. It’s never too late to get a flu shot.

RELATED: 2018 flu season in the US

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2018 flu season in the US
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2018 flu season in the US
Emergency room nurse Kathy Nguyen wears a mask as deals with flu patients at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Emergency room nurse Christine Bauer treats Joshua Lagade of Vista, California, for the flu as his girlfriend Mayra Mora looks on in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Emergency room nurse Christine Bauer treats Joshua Lagade of Vista, California, for the flu in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Doug Hasselo, 87 of Carlsbad, California, is treated for the flu by float nurse Nellie Reyes in the emergency room at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Joshua Lagade of Vista, California, gets an IV from emergency room nurse Christine Bauer at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Emergency room nurse Richard Horner wears a mask as he deals with flu patients at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, California, U.S., January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A doctor hold a syringe as part of the start of the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign in Nice, France October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Boxes of vaccines against the flu are seen as part of the start of the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign in Nice, France October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
PORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER 29: Troy Ali, 21 of Portland receives a flu shot from Greater Portland Health medical assistant Anissa Millette at the clinic in Franklin Towers on Cumberland Ave on Friday, December 29, 2017. (Staff Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22: Vials of the Fluvirin influenza vaccine are displayed at a Walgreens phramacy on January 22, 2018 in San Francisco, California. A strong strain of H3N2 influenza has claimed the lives of 74 Californians under the age of 65 since the flu season began in October of last year. People are being encouraged to get flu shots even through the vaccine has been only 30% effective in combating the influenza. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22: A sign advertising flu shots is displayed at a Walgreens phramacy on January 22, 2018 in San Francisco, California. A strong strain of H3N2 influenza has claimed the lives of 74 Californians under the age of 65 since the flu season began in October of last year. People are being encouraged to get flu shots even through the vaccine has been only 30% effective in combating the influenza. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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But my pharmacy is out of flu shots. Where can I get one?

You should get a flu shot. You can get a flu shot. It’s not too late to get a flu shot. You can get the flu in every month of the year. It’s never too late to get a flu shot.

There is no vaccine shortage at the national level, so even if your local Walgreens is tapped out, you’ll probably be able to find a spot to get your shot. Check out the CDC’s search tool to track down options, then call to confirm they’ve still got some vaccines in stock.

Should my dog get the flu shot?

Apparently, yes. That is also a thing.

Should I get two flu shots just to be safe?

One will do the trick! Flu shots aren't ineffective because there's not enough flu in there to give you immunity, they're just not very accurate. The influenza virus mutates all the time, and growing the virus for vaccines in eggs makes the virus change even more, so we often end up with a vaccine that doesn't match the common circulating viruses. If one doesn't do it, two won't do you any more good.

 

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