Older adults in particular are at higher risk of severe illness from both COVID-19 and influenza, which experts say makes getting a flu shot this year — including timing your shot and choosing the right type of vaccine — more important than ever.
Check out the tips below to find out when and where you should get vaccinated.
When should I get vaccinated?
Flu shot availability began popping up at pharmacy chains and doctors’ offices this summer, but when it comes to getting the shot, earlier isn't better. “The best time to get vaccinated is from mid-September through the month of October,” says William Schaffner, M.D., medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
Experts aren't able to predict how long a given flu season will last, but activity typically peaks between December and February and can last as late as May.
Which flu shot is right for me?
Adults 65 and older should ask their health care provider for either the high-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccine, Schaffner says, both of which produce a stronger immune response (and therefore more protection against the flu) in older adults.
This year, the high-dose vaccine is quadrivalent instead of trivalent — meaning it protects against four strains of flu instead of three — and a quadrivalent version of the adjuvanted vaccine will also be available.
Where can I get the flu shot?
Some locations that typically offer flu shots, like workplaces, won't be able to this year due to concerns around maintaining coronavirus precautions such as social distancing. Pharmacies (including national chains like CVS and Walgreens), doctors’ offices and health departments around the country are still offering vaccines, which are typically free with insurance. (Find a location near you with the CDC's VaccineFinder tool.)
Schaffner says that some medical practices in suburban areas are even planning to host drive-up flu shot clinics. Others, he says, have already shifted their scheduling to offer flu shot-only appointments in the morning or late afternoon, which help patients minimize the time they spend inside and around others.
No matter where you go, be prepared to wear a face mask during your appointment and to observe other COVID-related precautions, like getting a temperature check and waiting 6 feet away from other patients.