If you’ve ever had the flu, you know how miserable it can be. Symptoms can include fever, body aches, sore throat, and cough. In severe cases, the flu can lead to hospitalization or even death.
The best way to protect yourself is to get a flu shot in the early fall, before flu viruses begin circulating. But even if you aren’t able to get your flu shot until winter, vaccination is recommended. That’s because flu season typically peaks in February and can continue well into May.
Here are 5 reasons why late is better than never when it comes to getting your flu shot:
1. Getting an annual flu shot is your best defense against the flu.
Flu viruses change each year, and new flu vaccines are created to fight the latest strain of the virus. In addition, the immunity you get from a flu shot only lasts about a year.
2: The flu shot works.
The flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu by 40% to 60%, according to recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Effectiveness can vary based on how well that year’s vaccine matches the current strain of the virus.
But even if you get the flu after getting a flu shot, vaccination can make your symptoms less severe. Studies have shown that adults who got the flu after being vaccinated had a 31% lower risk of death than those who were unvaccinated.
3: The flu shot can be lifesaving for people at high risk of flu complications.
Adults 65 and older, pregnant people, and people with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and HIV are at high risk for flu complications. These individuals can have a harder time fighting the flu, usually because they have weaker immune systems.
Children under 5 are another group that often needs medical care for the flu. Flu shots are encouraged for all children 6 months and older.
4: You can’t get the flu from a flu shot.
We all know people who swear they got the flu from a flu shot. But the flu shot can’t make you sick because it doesn’t contain a live virus.
It takes about 2 weeks for the flu shot to start preventing flu, so if you get sick with the flu after getting vaccinated, chances are you were infected before the vaccine started to work. It’s also possible you got a virus that isn’t covered by the current vaccine, which protects against 3 or 4 of the most common viruses expected to be circulating each year.
5: You can get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccination or booster at the same time.
No waiting period is needed between the 2 vaccinations, so it’s safe to get your flu shot even if you’ve just gotten a COVID-19 vaccination or booster, and it’s safe to get a COVID-19 shot even if you just got vaccinated for the flu. At some Kaiser Permanente facilities, you may be able to get both shots during the same visit.
Visit kp.org/flu to find flu shot locations near you.