They say summer ends when you start hearing about the flu shot. So, bring on pumpkin flavored everything and signs reminding you to get a potentially life-saving flu shot.
A recent Consumer Reports On Health article states “an early flu shot could leave you unprotected later on in the flu season, which usually peaks in January or February and runs through April or May.”
So, this begs the question- does the flu vaccine wear off if you get it too early? And if so, do you need to get two flu shots two protect yourself?
To verify, we reached out to Cynthia Snider, Infectious Disease Physician with Cone Health.
We get it. Shots stink. At least the needle part anyway. And most of us want to avoid getting a shot altogether, let alone two shots to fight the flu.
Snider said, don’t put off the flu shot.
If you put it off, you’re at risk of forgetting and then putting yourself at risk for getting the influenza virus,” explained the doctor.
The flu shot can last in your system for up to one year, according to Snider. It all depends on how well the vaccine is matched for that season’s virus. In the 2016-2017 season, the flu vaccine was mismatched with the flu virus, meaning it only offered a 50 percent protection. But hey, 50 percent is better than nothing at all.
It’s recommended to get the flu shot in late September or early October, when the flu season typically begins. But, the flu season peaks in January or February.
“That’s not to say it wears off in the middle of the peak of the season,” said Snider.
Snider added, people over the age of 65 are at greater risk of getting the flu and having serious complications, as their immune system does not respond well to vaccines.
“The vaccine may not last as long for someone who is younger, in their 30s,” the doctor explained.
However, flu vaccines are made stronger for people over the age of 65.
So, the flu vaccine won’t wear off if you get it too early?
“Correct,” said Snider.
And, there’s no need for a second shot, right?
“They’ve done studies where they’ve given people two flu vaccines within one season and they have not shown any benefit to that,” she explained.
It takes about two weeks for the body to build up antibodies to the vaccine. And Snider added, the flu shot does not offer anyone 100 percent protection from the virus. Rather, you’re less likely to get the flu (if the vaccine is a strong match to the virus) and it means if you do get the flu, you’re less likely to have serious complications, such as extreme fever or being hospitalized.