The start of the flu season may be weeks away — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there's usually an uptick in activity in October — but there's solid evidence you might want to wait to get that shot.
That's because early protection might not last through the entire season, says a report by NPR.
Despite the warnings, incentives, and ubiquitous ads touting early vaccination, the reason to get an early shot may involve potential profits, rather than protection. Retail giants like CVS and Walgreens are aggressively adding clinic services to their drugstores in an attempt to squeeze profits out of a rapidly evolving niche market, according to Business Insider.
As demand rises, competition becomes fierce. But drugstore bottom lines do not necessarily equate to more bang for the shot.
"If you're over 65, don't get the flu shot in September or August. It's a marketing scheme," Laura Haynes, immunologist at the University of Connecticut, tells NPR. That's because flu season peaks in midwinter or even later, health officials say. And that could leave people over 65, whose immune systems respond differently than younger people, short on protection.
The CDC notes that "delaying vaccination might permit greater immunity later in the season," though an early shot is better than no shot, most experts agree. Health officials advise doctor consultation for optimal individual timing, but generally, "the ideal time is between Halloween and Thanksgiving," says Haynes.
But timing is not everything. The effectiveness of that shot varies, as well. A particularly virulent strain of the flu can put a strain on vaccines, and manufacturers and scientists are hard pressed to match vaccines to the year's strain of influenza. Still, the CDC reports about a 60 percent reduction in cases when the mix is right.
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