One of these flu seasons is not like the others.
That’s this season. Why? Because unlike in the past, when we’ve rolled smoothly into autumn following a blissful summer of good health and good times, we’ve trudged into this September after six months spent fending off a deadly new pathogen that’s killed nearly a million people worldwide.
So this year, you should probably get a flu shot! We know you’re busy; it slips your mind; you’re a disease-fighting warrior who’s never been sick before. But as Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explain, flu shots are critical in 2020. If there are two simultaneous outbreaks of respiratory diseases (COVID-19 and the flu), hospitals could be disastrously overwhelmed, with staff forced to split limited numbers of beds and ventilators. Flu shots provide 50% to 60% immunity against the flu virus, which would substantially bring down the number of hospitalizations.
When’s the prime time to get a flu shot? Experts say that time starts now. According to CDC guidelines, September and October are best, and vaccinations should happen by the end of October, before flu season has fully arrived. However, July and August may be too early, as vaccinations become less effective over time and could wear off before flu season departs.
Fauci himself gets his flu shot “towards the middle and end of October,” he revealed in a recent Instagram Live session with actress Jennifer Garner. “I wouldn’t necessarily get it now, in September, because there is evidence that, in fact, the immunity might wear off when you get to February and early March,” he said, offering some “unofficial” advice. (Experts have suggested that those over 65 and those with compromised immune systems wait until at least mid-September for the vaccine, to ensure it lasts for the whole flu season.)
But really, anytime is better than no time! Even if you miss the window in September and October, you should get vaccinated when you can, according to the CDC.
Stay healthy out there!