Doctors debate when people should get flu shots

Peak of flu season around the corner

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's that time of year again when people start getting flu shots.

Jan Mchugh just got her shot on Tuesday. It's something she does every year.

“I just go on the recommendation of my doctor. She's been my doctor for 30 years and I trust her. She said get the flu shot and I went in and got the flu shot,” said Mchugh.

But there are some medical professionals who are saying folks, especially those 65 and older, may want to wait to get their flu shots.

“Some people are saying you should wait to get your vaccine because you want your immunity level to be the highest during the peak of flu season,” said Dr. John Townes, the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Oregon Health Sciences University.

He doesn’t agree with the idea of waiting. He said flu season typically peaks around January or February.

It also usually takes two to four weeks for the vaccine to really kick in. The protective effect slowly decreases. That could be a problem for people 65 and up.

“For older people over the age of 65, the immune response tends to be not quite as good,” said Townes.

That's why some are saying to wait least until later in the fall.

“So that your immune system is charged up and ready to go when the flu hits,” explained Townes.

But timing all that out can be hard, especially with the flu being so unpredictable. Strains change year to year and the peak of flu season changes too.

“So it's kind of difficult to predict, really,” Townes said.

If you wait, your pharmacy could run out of the vaccine, or you may forget all together. That's why Dr. Townes said when it comes down to it, don't wait. Get the flu shot. The CDC supports that stance too.

Townes also said people 65 and older can get the high dose vaccine to make up for lowered immunity. In addition, he said don't use the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine this season. It wasn't effective last year.


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