1. When should you get the flu shot?
The flu vaccine is widely available in most doctors' offices and pharmacies. But you may want to wait to get yours until October - this is the optimal time to get the vaccine, according to the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC). The Centers for Disease Control also recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October. The reason is that some researchers suggest the vaccine's effectiveness begins to drop after four months or so, particularly in older adults.
The flu season typically runs from October to March, but it is possible that you may still get the flu in May. For this reason, getting your shot too early could leave you more vulnerable to the disease later on, particularly toward the end of the peak period for catching the flu, which is primarily from December to February. In case you're worried you miss the window, it's never too late to get vaccinated, even in November, December or January.
2. Which type of shot should you get?
There are several different types of flu vaccines, all of which have been updated for the 2018-19 flu season to better match the viruses that will be circulating. Nearly all of this year’s varieties will be quadrivalent vaccines, which protect against four different strains of flu. If you are over 50, but younger than 65. Any of the regular-dose vaccines are fine, except for nasal spray, which is recommended for people up to the age of 49.
Those aged 65 or older who are especially vulnerable to the flu and often get sicker when they come down with it should ask for one of two stronger vaccines available. They can either opt for the high-dose version, Fluzone High-Dose, which contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot. Or FLUAD, a vaccine with adjuvant, an ingredient that creates a stronger immune response.
3. Where should you get the shot?
You can get the vaccine from your doctor, drugstore chains and most local supermarkets. Many supermarkets and stores also sell the Flu shot. Some offices also offer the option of getting the flu shot done at work. According to a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly 60% of employers now offer on-site flu vaccinations. As such it doesn't matter where you get the flu shot from. Just get it from somewhere where it is convenient for you.
4. How much will the vaccine cost?
The flu shot is free for most people with health insurance. The Affordable Care Act requires both government and private health plans to cover the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control - and this includes the flu shot. In addition, Medicare also covers the shot at no cost. Medicaid, on the other hand, covers flu shots for children from six months to four years, and adults over 50, including older children and younger adults with certain health issues. Most plans cover flu shots given at pharmacies.
However, some people do end up paying out-of-pocket because it is more convenient than filing an insurance claim. If however, you do not have insurance, your local health center, or state health department may offer free or low-cost flu shots.
Bonus: Is the flu shot safe and effective?
The flu shot is very safe and it is a myth that the shot can give you the flu. The vaccine takes 10 to 14 days to become effective after getting the shot, so it is possible that exposure to the flu in that window may make you sick. It typically lowers your risk of getting sick by 40% to 60% and reduces the severity of the disease if you do catch it.
However, in any particular year, how effective the vaccine will be is what's on everyone's minds, since the viruses in circulation change from year to year. You can further reduce your chances of getting the flu with simple, commonsense precautions, this means staying away from people who are sick and washing your hands frequently. Following this advice has been shown to reduce the spread of the disease by up to 50%.