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When should I get a flu shot?

If you’re confused about when to get the flu shot, you’re not alone. Mixed messages in the media make it hard to tell when you’re at the greatest risk of developing the flu. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you get your flu vaccine on time.

when to get the flu shot
When flu season happens

Depending on where you live, flu season could last for a few weeks, or it could stick around for a few months. In general, doctors begin to see the flu crop up as soon as the temperature starts to drop in September. Transmission of such viruses naturally increases around this time of year because kids also head back to school, so they’re more likely to share germs with their friends and family.

Flu shot availability

Most clinics will be fully stocked with the vaccine starting in September. They usually keep the shot on hand year-round, though the stock availability varies from province to province and from time of year to time of year. Flu shot availability is generally at its peak between October and December.

Who should get the shot and when

Because the flu shot can save your life — especially if you’re pregnant, have a weakened immune system, are a young child, are a senior or work in a healthcare setting — it’s important to look into getting the vaccine before flu season begins, ideally in August or September. Small children and seniors especially should look at getting the shot early. Children should get the shot around the time they go back to school, and they may require two doses of the vaccine for it to be effective. Keep in mind the virus can take two weeks to offer full protection against the flu.

In general, getting the flu vaccine will help you stay immune to the virus for an entire year. This is also why it’s important for you to get the vaccine annually.

Where to get the shot

The first place to turn should be your doctor’s office. Your doctor knows your medical history and can advise you on any side effects or complications you may experience. If you don’t have a doctor, you can speak with someone at the following locations:

  • Walk-in clinics
  • Hospitals (many even hold seasonal flu shot fairs)
  • Grocery story clinics
  • Pharmacies
  • Local government health agency offices
    expert tip

    If you haven’t gotten your flu shot by October or November, that doesn’t mean it’s too late. You can get a flu shot at any time throughout the flu season, but it takes about two weeks for it to build up in your system. It’s best to get it early, before being exposed to the virus.” –Jenifer B. Silverman, M.S., RPA-C

    Read more

    Tips for preventing the flu
    How the flu shot works to strengthen your immune system
    5 Flu myths

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