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When Should You and Your Kids Get the Flu Shot

It turns out there is an ideal time to get your flu shot. Unfortunately, it usually doesn't line up with what your local drugstore is pushing.

You know that flu shot for kids and adults are safe and effective. You know that everyone should get one. You even know all the ingredients in the flu shot. But you have one nagging question: when is the best time to get a flu shot? Here’s a simple answer: Late October to early November. Still, if you’re in the middle of flu season, it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Here’s what happens if you get a late shot, and, for those that got it early, here’s how long your flu shot will last.

How Long Does the Flu Shot Last

For those extra-responsible citizens who finished their beach vacation and think, “flu season is just around the corner,” well, first of all, bless you. Second, you might have screwed yourself. The flu vaccine is expected to protect an individual, who has taken the shot, for a period of 6 months. After this dwindling antibody levels, as well as, mutations in influenza viruses cause its potency to wane.

]The flu shot’s effectiveness will probably not last through all of the flu season if you get it before October. While booster doses do exist, they have been found to be most effective for children ages 6 months to 8-years-old. Nevertheless, it can’t hurt to talk to your doctor now about getting a booster. If all else fails, you might want to book a January staycation (with no guests).

If you decide to wait until January to get yours, likewise, you may be in for a not-so-fun flu season. “Delaying vaccination might permit greater immunity later in the season,” the board that advises the CDC on vaccine acknowledges, but that “deferral could result in missed opportunities to vaccinate.” The board also says that waiting could reduce the number of antibodies in the vaccine — making them less effective. So you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and double damned if you get the flu in the midst of this existential crisis.

Which is why you should get your shot right now, at this very moment. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

When Is the Best Time To Get a Flu Shot

According to the Center For Disease Control And Prevention, flu season occurs between October and May and peaks between December and February. And while the flu season’s peak is well known, pharmacies seem to have not received the message. The likes of CVS and Walgreens (the two biggest pharmacies in the country) offer the “convenience” of such flu shots for kids and adults as early as August, along with incentives like a 20 percent off shopping pass. But why? What gives with the pushy purveyors of the flu shot?

The simple fact is that the rise of retail medical clinics inside drug stores along with state laws allowing pharmacists to administer them have made flu shots more marketable year-round. You could argue that these pharmacies are using their power for good — getting a jump on the flu season by marketing the shots early. And some experts do agree that an early flu shot is better than no flu shot, especially when it comes to your kids. Though some studies suggest that flu vaccines lose their effectiveness over the course of a season, others show that you can be protected up to a year later if the strains don’t change.

You could also argue that pharmacies are simply getting a jump on the $1.6 billion industry that is built around the flu. Either way, you now know better. Hold off on getting your shot until October, no matter how many coupons you’re offered.