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Get the flu shot now, or you’ll have to wait a few weeks

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Both the State of Connecticut and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended you get your yearly flu shot now, if you can.

They’re not wrong, because the recommendation takes into account the reality that many people don’t have easy access to medical care, and some of them who could get a flu shot now may not be able to at a later date, due to an unexpected shortage, financial problem or some unforeseen event.

Dr. Ulysses Wu, the Section Chief for Infectious Diseases at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, said vaccine makers also recommend you get the shot immediately, although for different reasons.

“The problem is that influenza and vaccines is a big business and so, whatever company is putting out influenza vaccines, they want you to get it from them, and the timing doesn’t matter as much for them,” he said.

Dr. Wu said it’s still not a bad time to get the flu shot, even if you can afford to wait, because any flu shot is better than no flu shot, but he said timing still does matter.

“The reason they even talk about the timing of the flu shot is because a decreased protective immunity from the flu shot,” he said, “and I just read a report today that for every 28 days after you’ve gotten your flu shot, your risk of flu goes up by 16 percent, so that talks about what we call waning immunity.”

In other words, waiting a little while now will keep your immunity stronger in the late winter, when you’re more likely to need it. Dr. Wu recommended that anyone who has the luxury of waiting to get a flu shot should wait until the end of September or anytime in October to get the shot, because flu season generally starts in November and it takes roughly two weeks to take effect.

“Through October itself is probably the optimal timing,” Dr. Wu said, “I personally tend to wait towards the end of October before I do it.”

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