When is the Best Time to Get My Flu Shot?

(Video Transcription)

Is it time to get my flu shot yet? In fact, when is the best time to get my flu shot? That’s a great question that people ask me all the time.

Okay. So when is the best time to be vaccinated against the flu? This is a great question. People ask me this question all the time, and there’s a couple schools of thought. One says get vaccinated early in case there’s an early start of flu season. The other school of thought says wait until later in the fall so that the antibodies from the vaccine will carry you all the way through flu season. Both are very reasonable.

First off, once you get vaccinated, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to build up to a protective level. Second thing we can say is that flu season has shifted about two months later in its beginning and its end, compared to all the other cold viruses. Normally in the Southeast, when the weather cools in October, that’s when colds really begin to pick up. When the weather warms in March, colds tend to fade away.

Flu Season in the South

Flu, in the Southeast at least, typically starts to pick up in December and then really starts to kick in around Christmas and New Year’s. Then as springtime comes on, it extends all the way through April and even into the beginning of May. So it’s shifted a couple months later. So you look at these pieces of information and both schools of thought make sense. Vaccinate early in case there is an early start to the season; vaccinate later to be sure that your protection carries you well into springtime when flu season will normally end. Interestingly, these two schools of thought have never been compared in a head-to-head study. So we actually don’t know when is the best time to get vaccinated. Here is what I can tell you based on what we do know.

Since normal flu season starts to pick up in December and then really starts to kick in around Christmas and New Year’s and since it takes a couple weeks for antibodies to kick in, I think it’s smart to be vaccinated in time for the December ramp-up. But other than that, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t have a strong recommendation. So maybe the best time to get a flu vaccine is when it’s convenient, and that’s what I would suggest until we know something more from some head-to-head studies.

For Sentinel Primary Care in Brier Creek in Raleigh, I’m Dr. Patrick O’Connell. For more medical videos, check out our website at sentinelprimarycare.com.