Our office has received many inquiries regarding this year’s influenza vaccine, and in particular when is the optimal time to receive it. The most important consideration is that you just GET IT, whether early or late, high-dose or standard-dose. The more people that are vaccinated the better off we’ll all be when influenza starts circulating.
The general recommendation is to receive the vaccine when it becomes available, in order to promote the most widespread coverage as possible. For this year, in particular, many providers feel that minimizing the possibility of an influenza outbreak while COVID-19 is still circulating in our community is more important than trying to “time” the influenza vaccine to optimize coverage at the end of the season and recommend influenza vaccination now.
There is a rationale for delaying vaccination until the latter half of October, due to the possibility of immunity waning before the end of flu season in the Spring, and your provider may recommend this strategy. If you elect for this approach a few practical considerations should be kept in mind. If you desire the high-dose influenza vaccine (an option for persons age 65 and older), this may not be available later in the season due to quantity limitations. Also, it is important that you get vaccinated promptly if you should hear there is influenza in our community before you have been vaccinated, as it takes 2 weeks to develop protection after vaccination.
The high-dose influenza vaccine is an option for persons over age 65. While not officially recommended by the CDC over standard-dose formulations, studies have shown significantly increased antibody levels as well as decreased influenza rates amongst those who receive the high-dose vaccine (compared to standard-dose). That said, the CDC advises against waiting for the high-dose vaccine if it is not readily available, as the standard-dose vaccine still provides acceptable protection in those over age 65.
Hopefully, this is helpful information for you, but please remember the most important thing for the influenza vaccine is that you get it, one way or another.
Michael Steele, M.D.