SEP 29, 2016 2:20 PM PDT

Are Early Flu Shots just Marketing Schemes?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
It seems all retailers are racing against each other to be first at seasonal offerings. And this season, you may have found flu shots offered in as early as August – months ahead of when flu season is typically supposed to be. Is this a marketing scheme or should you be proactive and get your flu shot early? As it turns out, when it comes to flu shots, perhaps waiting may be in your favor.
 
Every year, scientists intensely study the health prospects in the Southern Hemisphere during its winter, which is still summer for us. Based on the viral strains circulating in that region, the scientists predict the flu strains that would make its way to our neck of the woods (the Northern Hemisphere) come winter.
 
While the predictions are made and the vaccines are ready by late July, should people get vaccinated so early? Of note, flu season is generally calculated to be during the harsh winter months. According to the CDC, February is the most frequent peak month for flu activity. But even once February ends, flu season can last to as late as May. So would the protective effects of your flu shot last until then?
 
For Laura Haynes, an immunologist at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging, the answer is no. "If you're over 65, don't get the flu vaccine in September. Or August. It's a marketing scheme," she said.
 
The flu shot works by exposing the body’s immune system to a dead version of the flu virus. This exposure is enough to rally our immune cells against the live strains circulating during flu season. But for aging people, it takes longer for the immune system to respond to the vaccination, and the protective effects seem to wear off faster too. This means that for older people, getting a flu shot in August could leave them vulnerable when flu is rampant during January and February.   
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that although the shot should be made available to everyone when it’s ready, people over 65 should be mindful of the diminishing antibodies over time. Still, they said, “deferral could result in missed opportunities to vaccinate,” which could be more harmful getting the flu shot too early.
 

Getting a well-matched flu shot at the right time could reduce the risk of the flu by as much as 60 percent, the CDC said. This is particularly important for very young and very old individuals, and individuals with immunocompromised systems, as its more challenging for them to recover from the flu.
 
Thus, this upcoming flu season, get your shot if you can, just not too early. "The ideal time is between Halloween and Thanksgiving," said Haynes at UConn. "If you can't wait and the only chance is to get it in September, then go ahead and get it. It's best to get it early rather than not at all.

Additional source: CNN, CDC
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 11, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
AUG 11, 2019
New Device Improves Accuracy In Lung Cancer Diagnosis
Acute respiratory distress syndrome ARDS occurs when fluid builds up in the alveoli. These tiny elastics sacs, which are responsible for gaseous exchange i...
SEP 14, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
SEP 14, 2019
What is Photoacoustic Imaging?
In the last decade, photoacoustic tomography has slowly emerged as a versatile, radiation-free imaging modality that bears great potentials for basic resea...
OCT 07, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 07, 2019
Risk Factors for Gout Revealed by Genome-Wide Association Study
Gout is a common type of arthritis, and causes severe and sudden pain, redness and swelling in the joints....
NOV 27, 2019
Health & Medicine
NOV 27, 2019
3D-printed cell traps catch cancer cells on the move
The early stages of metastasis, or the spread of cancer cells from the primary tumor site, are incredibly difficult to detect by analyzing blood samples. F...
JAN 22, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 22, 2020
Biosignatures detect TB infections months before symptoms appear
What if there was a test that could detect tuberculosis six months before symptoms appear? Researchers at the University of College London think a predicti...
JAN 19, 2020
Immunology
JAN 19, 2020
Overactive Immune Gene May Cause Schizophrenia
A windy road links excessive activity of the “C4” gene to the development of schizophrenia. Researchers begin to study C4 activity as part of n...
Loading Comments...