flu season

When Should You Get a Flu Shot?

NBC 7 Responds asked experts when people should get this year's flu shot

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Flu shots are being offered all across San Diego. A common question people ask is when they should get their flu shots. Doctors say October is a good month to get the shot.

"It usually takes at least two weeks for your body to develop an antibody to protect you against the virus," said Sharp Infectious Disease Physician Hai Shao. "I would advocate people to get their flu vaccine now. It's not too early."

Shao already got his influenza vaccine. He says the vaccine is based on which flu strains were prevalent in the southern hemisphere. Shao says catching the flu and COVID-19 could be a deadly combination.

"The outcome of that is devastating," said Shao. "You cannot afford to take chances this year to say 'I've done just fine previous years.'"

Shao says that's because fighting the flu could weaken your immune system, and leave you vulnerable to the coronavirus. The flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID-19, but doctors in Brazil and Switzerland found some interesting correlations.

"People who got the flu vaccine actually had an 8% chance less likely to be very sick going to the ICU if they were infected with COVID-19," said Shao. "If they do get it, they tend to be much milder for the people who got the vaccine than the people who did not have it."

Shao says he expects that fewer people might catch the flu this year. That's because of the coronavirus pandemic measures in place.

"This coming flu season could potentially be much milder than before," said Shao.

Wearing masks, washing your hands and social distancing are all ways to slow the spread of the flu as well. Still, he recommends people get the vaccine as soon as possible.

"I get it as soon as possible," said Jim Heintz, who gets his flu shot every year. "I dont' like needles, but other than that once I get here I'm okay."

Some places may even be offering drive-thru flu shots, like the one Maria Flores received.

"My daughter told me today was the day for me, so I came," said Flores.

"The flu shots are the same no matter where you go," said Dr. Shao. "But if you are 65 or older you might consider asking about a high dose shot."

That's because the vaccine is only effected for the duration of the flu season. A high-dose shot can make the vaccine last longer, which can be an issue for people with weaker immune systems who get the shot early in the fall.

"Sometimes we do see that toward the end of the flu season," said Shao. "Some people may get the flu despite the fact that they got the vaccine in August or September."

High-dose vaccines are a lot stronger, but are designed for people who are more at risk.

"They pack four times of antigen into that vaccine specifically for the people 65 or above with less robust immune systems," said Shao. "It's so they can be assured that toward the tail end of the flu season their immune system still has immunity against the flu."

If you want to find a location to get the flu vaccine near you, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a free tool available here.

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