- The CDC generally recommends getting a flu shot in September and October as getting one too early may have effectiveness wane before peak flu season, and too late may not protect you in time.
- The flu vaccine can help prevent people from catching the flu and from suffering severe illness and death in the event they catch a new strain of the flu virus after receiving the vaccine.
- During the fall, flu shots are widely available at pharmacies, retail clinics, primary care offices and urgent care centers, and are usually free if you have health insurance.
Getting an annual flu shot is one of the best steps you can take to prepare for flu season and reduce your risk of getting this highly common viral infection. Here are eight important facts about the flu vaccine that can empower you and your family to receive a yearly flu vaccine.
1. The Best Time to Get a Flu Shot is Before Flu Season
According the CDC, the flu virus is most common during the fall and winter seasons, though anyone can get the flu at any time of year. Flu season usually begins in October, peaks between December and February, and lasts as late as May.
Flu shots are typically widely available prior to the start of flu season and may be available as early as August in some areas. The CDC generally recommends getting a flu shot in September and October as getting one too early may have effectiveness wane before peak flu season, and too late may not protect you in time. Ask your primary care doctor when flu shots will be available, or contact an urgent care clinic or walk-in clinic to find out when you and your family can get a flu vaccine.
2. The Flu Shot Can Prevent Severe Illness and Death
The flu should not be confused with the common cold, as it has the potential to be far more dangerous and severe. Between 2010 and 2020, the flu resulted in up to 810,000 hospitalizations in the United States and up to 61,000 deaths annually.
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine can help prevent people from catching the flu and from suffering severe illness and death in the event they catch a new strain of the flu virus after receiving the vaccine. If you or any of your family members are at high risk for flu complications, the CDC recommends arranging to get flu shots as soon as they’re available to prevent severe illness and complications, including death.
3. The Flu Shot Can Help Protect People in the High-Risk Category
According to the CDC, certain people are at higher risk for flu complications than others based on factors including age, disabilities, chronic health conditions, and whether they spend lots of time in environments with other high-risk individuals. The flu shot can help prevent these vulnerable populations from getting the flu, and also prevent you from spreading the flu to these individuals if they are unable to get the flu vaccine for any reason.
People at high risk for flu complications include:
- Adults aged 65 years and older
- Children aged 2 years and younger
- Adults with chronic health conditions including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease
- Children with neurologic conditions including epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and brain disorders
- Pregnant women
- Racial and ethnic minority groups including Blacks, American Indians, and Latinos
- People who are obese
- People with weakened immune systems and autoimmune disorders
- People who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities
- People who work in healthcare facilities, correctional facilities, or homeless shelters
Ask your doctor to confirm whether you and your family members can safely get the flu vaccine based on age and other factors. Your doctor can review your family’s medical history and recommend the best flu vaccines.
4. Prevention Is the Best Way to Treat the Flu
One of the best ways to treat the flu is to prevent yourself from getting it in the first place with a flu shot. Flu symptoms typically last between three and seven days for most people, and for up to two weeks in older adults and those with chronic lung disease.
Regardless of how long the flu lasts, its symptoms are often extremely unpleasant. Flu symptoms include:
- Fever and chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle and body aches
5. The Flu Shot Is Safe and Effective
The CDC states that flu vaccines are extremely safe and have an excellent safety profile. For more than 50 years, the flu vaccine has been safely received by hundreds of millions of Americans, and an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence supports the safety of this vaccine.
The flu shot is also shown to be effective at preventing the flu, and reducing the risk of severe illness from the flu. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% during flu season. According the CDC, factors that can influence the effectiveness of an annual vaccine are the characteristics of the person being vaccinated, and the similarity between the flu viruses going around and the flu viruses that year’s vaccine is designed to prevent.
6. The Flu Shot Is Widely Available and Easy to Find
Before and during flu season, the flu shot is available in nearly every type of healthcare setting and places that offer healthcare services and products. Urgent care clinics, pediatric urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores, primary care doctors, retail stores, colleges, universities, and your workplace are common places to get flu shots.
Use Solv to locate top-rated flu shot providers in your area. Solv gives you the option to explore flu shot providers with high ratings and contact the provider directly from its website to book a same-day or next-day appointment for a flu shot.
7. Flu Shots Are Often Free or Low in Cost
Flu shots are usually completely free for anyone who has a health insurance plan. Many healthcare providers do not require a copay for a flu shot.
According to GoodRX, without health insurance, the flu shot can range in cost between $0 and $50. Factors that influence the cost of a flu shot include the rates set by the provider, the provider’s geographical location, and the type of flu shot being given.
Some flu shot providers such as pharmacies and supermarkets may offer special discounts or coupons for the flu shot. For example, those who have membership cards to these stores may receive a free or low-cost flu shot.
It also helps to check with your employer or school, as many workplaces, colleges, and universities usually offer free flu shots to their employees and students.
8. Flu Vaccine Side Effects Are Usually Mild and Rare
The flu vaccine can cause side effects like any other medication or medical treatment. However, side effects of the flu vaccine are usually mild and resolve on their own within a few days.
According to the CDC, common side effects of the flu shot include:
- Muscle aches
- Soreness, redness, and swelling at the injection site
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare side effect of the flu vaccine. GBS is a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves to cause muscle pain and weakness, fatigue, rapid heart rate, and difficulty with speaking, swallowing, and breathing. The CDC estimates there are no more than two cases of GBS per one million people who get the flu vaccine.
Some people may experience an allergic reaction to one or more ingredients in the flu vaccine. Signs of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Pale skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Hoarse voice
- Swelling around the eyes and lips
According to [source], a severe, life-threatening reaction to the vaccine is rare and requires immediate medical attention. Notify your doctor or emergency medical services right away if you or a family member experiences the above symptoms within a few minutes to a few hours after getting the flu vaccine.
Solv is an easy, convenient way to locate flu shot providers in your area, and it also helps you book your appointment online, skip the paperwork, and check-in using the Solv app. Solv can give you and your family peace of mind knowing you can access highly rated medical care the moment you need it.
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- The Flu Season (2021)
- Disease Burden of Influenza (2021)
- People at High Risk For Flu Complications (2021)
- Clinical Signs and Symptoms of Influenza (2020)
- Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) (2019)
- Influenza (Flu)Vaccines Safety Information (2021)
- Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do the Flu Vaccines Work? (2021)
- Flu Vaccine Safety Information (2019)
- Guillain-Barré Syndrome and Vaccines (2021)