Flu Season Is Here: Where To Get Your Shot

Two years ago, the flu season killed about 80,000 people in the United States alone, including nearly 200 children. This year, the various strains of the flu virus shouldn't be as deadly, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is as adamant as ever about the need for flu shots.

Flu activity in the Southern Hemisphere, which had its flu season a few months ago, was mild, according to the World Health Organization. That's a good sign for the continental United States, since popular virus strains in the Northern Hemisphere often mirror the Southern's.

Still, even in "mild" years, the flu can wreak havoc on people's respiratory system, infecting the nose, throat and even the lungs, which can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death, according to the CDC.

CDC: Get Your Flu Shots, People
Nurse Alina Pastoriza Garcia administers a flu vaccination to Russell Waddey at the CVS/pharmacy's MinuteClinic in Miami on December 4, 2012. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

This year, vaccines have been updated to better match popular strains of the virus. For the first time, all virus strains for the vaccine will have been grown in cells, not eggs, which allows drugmakers to produce the vaccine more quickly and accurately.

Also for the first time, the CDC said there's such a thing as being vaccinated too early in the season. People seeking protection from the flu should aim for getting their vaccines before the end of October, but not before September, for maximum protection during peak flu season.

Vaccine Finder

The exception is young children. Kids between 6 months and 8 years who need two doses of the flu vaccine should start as early as possible, since they have to wait about a month in between doses. It's recommended that children in this age range who are getting their first or second flu vaccine should get two doses in this manner.

The CDC doesn't recommend any particular vaccine over another. In the Southern Hemisphere, seasonal influenza A and B viruses were the most prevalent, and regular-dose flu shots in the U.S. were designed to protect against them. However, people over 65 should take high-dose shots or shots made with an adjuvant, an ingredient that bolsters immunity to the virus, according to the CDC.

Standard dose flu shots and nasal spray vaccines should suffice for almost everyone else. For anyone nervous about injecting the flu strains that are used to create immunity protection, one of the CDC's recommended vaccines is made without the virus. The CDC created a table of Food and Drug Administration–approved vaccines in the U.S., along with the appropriate age and dosage and a map of flu vaccine locations.

Earlier reports about Australia's severe flu season this year may have been overstated, according to a report by Australia's Department of Health. While the country may have experienced an earlier start to its flu season, flu activity was lower than average, compared with previous years. On top of that, the "clinical severity," measured by the proportion of patients admitted to an intensive care unit, as well as deaths attributed to the flu, was also low.