Even though we’re well into March, and allergy season is right around the corner (or already at the door), Ruth Carrico, assistant professor, school of public health and information sciences, University of Louisville, says the flu vaccine is still recommended for everyone.
“People say, ‘Why would I want to be immunized if the flu season is over?'” says Carrico. “But the flu is very clever and unpredictable, so the focus should be on prevention. If we have a preventative process, why don’t we take it?”
Carrico, who organized a drive-thru flu vaccination event at the University that drew 20,000 people in November, says prevention is key, especially since the flu vaccine has presented lower complications than usual.
In terms of timing, she says the earlier the better. “You should get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available, because it will work all through the flu season.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting the vaccine before December is ideal, because it ensures protective antibodies are in place before flu activity peaks. However, the CDC also continues to recommend people get vaccinated throughout the flu season, which can begin as early as October, and last as late as May.
H1N1 will be part of the flu vaccine for the coming year, which will be available in August or September, Carrico says.
Each year, scientists try to predict which strains of flu viruses will be circulating that year, and then put them into the vaccine, according to the CDC, and studies have shown in years when the vaccine is well-matched to the year’s strains, the vaccine can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 70 percent to 90 percent in healthy adults.
The bottom line, says Carrico, is that we need to take preventive opportunities when we can.
“Some flu vaccines are a good match, and sometimes the flu throws us a curveball.”