Parents have their kids get flu shots early, hoping to have them protected from it. However doctors are advising not to get flu shots early, specifically for children and the elderly.
The flu season runs from November until April. It would peak between January and February. Dr. Mallika Marshall says on CBS Boston that getting flu shots too early stimulate the antibodies too early. By the time the flu season arrives, the antibodies would not be stimulated enough to fight off the flu.
Flu shots though are available from as early as August and parents take advantage of their availability as soon as they are on sale. Some pharmaceutical stores also market flu shots early, which adds to the confusion.
For older people getting flu shots closer to the flu season is more beneficial, according to CNN. People older than 65 have their immune systems respond more slowly and the effects of a vaccine could also wear off faster for them. Getting the flu shots closer to flu season would help their antibodies work more effectively rather too early.
Different factors affect how effective a flu vaccine is. One difficulty is that there are many flu viruses out that it's hard to match a particular vaccine against the flu. Health officials study which viruses might be circulating in the Southern Hemisphere in the summer so pharmacists can then make the vaccines that would be used for the season.
The coming flu season will have three or four flu strains. Two A strains, one or two B strains as well as H1N1 and H3N2 will likely be present. Immunity from the flu varies, though. Shots from last year could still be effective if the same strains are present for the coming season. Immunity would also depend on the age of the patient.
Getting shots though would be much better than not getting any shot at all. Dr. Laura Haynes, an immunologist at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging says that the best time to get it is between Halloween and Thanksgiving, though September would still be fine if people can't wait.