When Is It Too Late to Get a Flu Shot?

It's best to get a flu shot by late October, but you can still get vaccinated later in flu season for protection.

As we head into fall, many wonder about the best time for a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say late October is ideal.1 But, don’t worry if you miss this window. You can safely get a shot until May, when the virus still circulates.1

The peak of the flu season is usually between December and February.1 But, flu cases can also show up as late as spring. Getting your shot beyond late October is still useful. It takes about two weeks for it to fully protect you.1

Vaccination is extra important for certain people. This includes older adults, pregnant women, and those with long-term health issues. For them, the flu shot could mean milder symptoms or even avoiding the flu altogether. So, it’s key for these groups to get their shot each year.

Key Takeaways

  • The optimal time to get a flu shot is by late October. But, getting one anytime until May is a good move.
  • Flu season’s main span is December through February. But, it can last into the spring.
  • Even with a late shot, you can get some protection. It takes around two weeks to kick in.
  • People at high risk like seniors and those with chronic issues need to be extra cautious. They should aim to vaccinate yearly.
  • The flu shot is our best defense. It not only helps us but also lessens the flu’s impact if we do catch it.

What Is the Flu?

The flu is caused by viruses and is easily passed from one person to another.1 Symptoms of the flu are similar to a cold but more severe. They include a high temperature, coughing, sore throat, and feeling tired and achy.1

In serious cases, the flu can cause further issues like pneumonia, bronchitis, and ear or sinus infections.1 Some people are at higher risk, such as older adults, children, pregnant women, and those with ongoing health issues. For them, the flu might lead to hospitalization or death.1

Flu Symptoms

Common flu symptoms are high fever, cough, and a sore throat.1 You might also have a runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, and feel really tired. These symptoms can vary in how bad they are and how long they last, from a few days to weeks.1

Potential Complications

If you get hit hard by the flu, it might cause pneumonia, bronchitis, or ear and sinus infections.1 Some people, like the elderly, very young, and those with health problems, face a higher risk. They could end up in the hospital or even die.1

Getting the flu shot every year is the best way to protect yourself.1

Benefits of Flu Vaccination

Getting your flu shot every year is crucial. It can cut your chances of getting sick by 40% to 60%. And if you still get the flu, the shot helps make the sickness less severe. This makes fighting the flu easier on you1.

Reduced Risk of Illness

The flu shot is your best defense against the virus. By getting it, you lower your risk of catching the flu and its serious effects. This not only protects you but others around you as well1.

Milder Symptoms

Even if the flu gets you, the shot lessens the blow. It eases your symptoms, making the sickness more bearable. This also helps lower the chance of facing severe complications from the flu1.

Protection for High-Risk Groups

For some people, like the elderly, kids, pregnant women, or those with health issues, the shot is critical. It shields them from the most dangerous aspects of the flu. Getting vaccinated is crucial in keeping these groups safe and stopping the flu from spreading1.

flu vaccine benefits

when is it too late to get a flu shot

The best time to get a flu shot is early fall, before October ends. But, it’s okay to get it later in the flu season.1 Flu outbreaks can last until May. So, even during winter or early spring, a flu shot will help.1

It takes about two weeks for a flu shot to fully protect you. This means, even if it’s past October, it’s useful to get one.1 You should keep getting flu shots as long as the virus is around.1 Don’t worry if it seems like the flu is already spreading where you are. It’s never too late to boost your protection with a flu shot.

CDC Recommendations for Flu Vaccination Timing

The CDC suggests early fall as the ideal time for a flu shot.2 It’s good to get vaccinated early because it takes your body a couple of weeks to build up protection against the flu. The CDC also says it’s okay to get the shot later in the season if you missed the early date.1

Viruses can spread at different times, with peak season from December to May.1 So, even late in the season, a flu shot can still help keep you safe.

Early Fall Vaccination

September and October are top months for most to get their flu shot.2 The CDC directs that all people aged 6 months and above in the US should get vaccinated.2 It’s usually not a good idea to get the vaccine in July or August. But, there are exceptions, like pregnant people close to giving birth.2 Kids who need two shots should get their first one early and the second at least four weeks later.2

Vaccination Throughout the Season

The CDC encourages flu shots to keep going all season.1 Even in the spring, getting vaccinated can protect you from catching the flu. The busiest time for the flu is usually from December through March.1

Flu Season Patterns

Flu season usually starts in the fall and lasts through spring. The most flu activity happens between December and February.3 However, each year can be different. Sometimes, the flu starts earlier or lasts longer. For instance, the 2022-2023 season saw an early rise in flu cases.3

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Different flu seasons bring various strains and illness levels.3 It shows why we need to watch for changing flu patterns. This helps in deciding the best time to get vaccinated for full protection.

Peak Flu Activity

The flu often spreads the most in February in the U.S.3 Lately, COVID-19 has made it hard to predict the exact peak time. This is why the U.S. flu season’s standard time is from October to April.4 Flu cases climb in the fall, peak in December to February, and slow down in April or May.4

Varying Flu Seasons

Flu season’s ups and downs change when is best to get the flu shot.3 Although getting the shot by October’s end is advised, flu season may not end till May.3 So, a later shot can still help protect against the flu.3


The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old receive a flu shot every year.3
The flu vaccines traditionally become available in late summer with most eligible individuals advised to get vaccinated by the end of October, as flu cases start to rise.3
It takes about two weeks after getting a flu shot for immunity to start kicking in.3
Flu season typically continues through March, which allows for vaccination till the end of February or even early March.3
Influenza viruses circulate all year round with low risk of catching the flu in spring or summer.3
Peak flu season transmission most often occurs in February in the U.S.3
In recent years, predicting the peak of flu season has been difficult due to the impact of COVID-19, with variations in peak timing observed.3
The annual flu vaccine in the U.S. is “quadrivalent,” protecting against four strains of influenza.3
Despite being vaccinated, there is still a possibility of getting the flu, but the severity of infection and likelihood of hospitalization are reduced.3
It is crucial for everyone to get vaccinated, especially those at a higher risk of flu complications, such as pregnant individuals, the elderly, or people with chronic health conditions, according to the CDC.3
The U.S. flu season typically runs from October through April.4
CDC recommends all individuals aged 6 months and older to get a flu shot by the end of October.4
Flu cases usually start rising in fall, peak between December and February, and taper off in April or May.4
It takes about two weeks for a flu shot to be fully effective and provide protection.4
In the 2022-2023 flu season, individuals who received a flu vaccine were 40% to 70% less likely to require hospitalization.4
Flu vaccine immunity against influenza A(H1N1) decreased between 6% to 11% a month between 2011-2015.4
Flu vaccines provide protection against the flu and its complications for the duration of the current flu season.4
For children, individuals aged 65 and older, and pregnant individuals, it’s best to get a flu shot by the end of October.4
Children aged 6 months to 8 years should get a flu shot as soon as vaccines become available.4
Pregnant individuals can protect themselves and their babies by getting a flu shot.4
Flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu by 40% to 60% according to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.5
Adults who got the flu after being vaccinated had a 31% lower risk of death than those who were unvaccinated.5
Children under 5 who receive the flu shot are much less likely to end up in the emergency room or be hospitalized due to the flu.5
Encouraging flu shots for all children 6 months and older.5
It takes about 2 weeks for the flu shot to start preventing flu.5

Types of Flu Vaccines

There are two main types of flu vaccines: flu shots and nasal spray.6 Flu shots go in your arm and have dead flu viruses. Everyone from 6 months old should get them.6 The nasal spray, LAIV, uses weakened flu viruses. It goes through your nose. This year, it’s better to pick flu shots over the nasal spray.5 Talk to your doctor to see what’s best for you.

Flu Shots

Flu shots are widely used and safe.5 They’re an arm injection with non-active flu viruses. Everyone, especially those with health issues or over age 50, should get them.5 They lower your flu risk by 40% to 60%.5 If you still get the flu after the shot, your risk of severe illness goes down by 31%.5

Nasal Spray Vaccine

LAIV is a nasal spray with weaker flu viruses.6 It’s a choice for healthy 2 to 49-year-olds. Yet, this season, it’s better to get a flu shot.6 Discuss with your doctor to find your vaccine match.

High-Risk Groups for Flu Complications

Some people have a higher chance of getting very sick from the flu. This includes those 65 and older, pregnant women, and kids under 5. This is especially true for babies under 2.5 Others who face more risk are those with certain health problems like asthma, diabetes, and heart conditions. People with HIV or AIDS and anyone with a weak immune system are also at a higher risk.5

It’s vital for these high-risk individuals to get a flu shot every year. This shot can stop the flu or make it less severe. It’s considered the top way to protect those who can get very sick from the flu. And, it helps keep those around them safe too.7

High-Risk GroupReason for Higher Risk
Adults 65 and olderWeakened immune systems and higher risk of complications
Pregnant womenChanges in the body’s immune system and cardiovascular system
Children under 5, especially under 2Weaker immune systems and higher risk of hospitalization
People with chronic medical conditionsUnderlying health issues can increase severity of flu illness
Individuals with weakened immune systemsHarder time fighting off the flu, leading to more severe complications

Children and Flu Vaccination

The CDC says all kids 6 months and older should get a flu shot each year.1 Some children aged 6 months to 8 years might need two shots for full protection.1 If they’re getting a flu shot for the first time or only got one shot before, they’ll need two. Space these shots at least 28 days apart.1 This is because younger kids’ bodies might not react strongly to the vaccine at first. The extra shot helps their immune system get strong.1 Parents should ask their child’s doctor if they need one or two flu shots.

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Two-Dose Requirements

Children aged 6 months to 8 years might need two flu shots for them to work well.1 This is especially true if they’re getting a vaccine for the first time or only had one shot last year.1 With two shots, given 28 days apart, these kids can become well-armed against the flu.1 Talking to your child’s doctor is the best way to decide if your child needs both shots for the flu. It makes sure they’re fully protected.

Vaccine Safety and Research

Before they are used, flu vaccines go through many tests for safety.8 For the last 50 years, hundreds of millions of Americans have gotten flu shots safely. Many studies show it is safe.1 The flu shot can’t give you the flu because it doesn’t have live viruses.5 Its protection against the flu varies each year, but it’s still the best way to fight it. Even if you do catch the flu, vaccinated people often have less severe sickness.5 Scientists always keep checking to make sure flu shots are safe and work well.

The flu shot lowers your chance of getting sick by 40% to 60%, says the CDC.5 In fact, adults vaccinated against the flu were 31% less likely to die if they did get sick.5 Kids who get the shot are also less likely to need the ER.5 Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot.5 It can’t make you sick because there’s no live virus in it.5 But remember, it takes about 2 weeks for its full protection.5 The vaccine each year aims to fight against the most common flu strains expected.5

The U.S. flu season starts by the end of October.8 The CDC says to get your flu shot by then.8 Your body needs 2 weeks to fight off the flu after getting the shot.8 Flu season goes from October to May in the U.S. The worst times are December to February.8 The vaccine’s power lowers over time. So, it might be best to wait if flu season hasn’t started where you are.8 Yet, getting a flu shot is always good while the flu is spreading, even up to late May in the U.S.8

The worst time for flu is usually from December to March.1 But it can last as late as May.1 Every year, hundreds of thousands are so sick they have to go to the hospital.1 And thousands to tens of thousands die from the flu.1 To protect against the flu, everyone from 6 months should get a flu shot every year, says the CDC.1 But the nasal spray isn’t recommended because it doesn’t work as well.1 Some kids may need two shots to be fully protected.1 You can get the flu shot at health departments, pharmacies, and more places.1

To sum up, flu vaccines are carefully tested and are known to be safe. Although their protection fluctuates, they are the top defense against the flu. They can also make flu symptoms milder if you still get sick. Ongoing studies ensure flu vaccines continue to be safe and effective, playing a key role in public health protection.

Where to Get Vaccinated

Flu vaccines are all over. You can get them at doctors’ offices, local pharmacies, health departments, and more. Even workplaces and schools offer them.9

Doctors’ Offices

Getting a flu shot from your doctor is easy. It’s convenient and these places know you best.5


Pharmacies are great for flu vaccines, like Walgreens. They serve everyone 3 years and older.9

Vaccine Finder Tools

Use sites like HealthMap Vaccine Finder to see all vaccination spots. Just enter your zip code. It’s simple and helps you find the closest flu shot spot.9

Remember, using all these options and tools is smart. They help you and those you love stay safe from the flu.5109

Flu Vaccination and COVID-19

It’s safe and smart to get both the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at once. The CDC says you can get both at the same visit.11 It’s crucial to stay protected because flu and COVID-19 share symptoms and risks. By getting both shots, you guard yourself against both diseases.

If you get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines together, you might feel tired or achy. This is more likely than if you only get the COVID-19 shot.11 Still, the CDC says there’s no need to wait between the two.

Combining the flu with the RSV shot may increase the chance of a sore arm.11 But, most side effects go away on their own. It’s a small price to pay for protecting yourself.

The flu shot cuts your chance of getting sick by 40% to 60%.5 Even if you catch the flu, the shot makes it less dangerous. With both flu and COVID-19 vaccines, you’re setting up strong defenses.

Addressing Common Concerns

Some folks worry about getting the flu vaccine. They think about the side effects and how well it works. The flu shot might give you a little soreness where you got it, a bit of a fever, or some aches. But, these usually are not bad and don’t last long.5 You won’t catch the flu from the vaccine because it doesn’t have live flu viruses in it.

Flu Shot Side Effects

The flu shot’s side effects are generally not too bad.5 If you do have any mild problems, it means your body is starting to fight off the flu. It’s a good sign that you’ll be protected against catching it.

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Vaccine Effectiveness

Many people wonder if the flu shot really works. It is our strongest tool against the flu.5 Its power to keep you from getting sick can change each year. Still, it lowers your chance of the flu by 40% to 60%, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.5 Even if you do get the flu, the shot makes it less severe and lowers the risk of bad problems.5

Experts keep watching and updating us about the flu vaccine.5 It may not be perfect, but it is the best step to protect you and your family from the flu’s bad effects.


Getting a flu shot yearly is top-notch for you and your family. The best time is early fall, but you can benefit all season.12

Even in late winter or early spring, it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated.12

A flu shot is an easy step to dodge flu and its dangers, especially if you’re at risk.12

It’s not just about you. It also helps stop the flu from spreading in your area.12

The vaccine is usually available from late August, so don’t miss getting it by October.13

Emergency rooms affiliated with Emergency Hospital Systems get vaccines fast. They make sure you’re covered before the winter starts.13

Each year, lots of folks catch the flu, with many needing hospital care.13

This is especially worrying for older adults, pregnant women, and those with health issues.13

Emergency Hospital System is ready to help with flu shots and medical care any time, any day. They’re in Cleveland, Spring, and Humble.13


When is it too late to get a flu shot?

The CDC suggests getting a flu shot by late October. But you still can get it later in the season for some protection. The season’s peak is usually between December and February.Flu activity might stick around until May. It takes two weeks for the shot to work. So, even late shots are still helpful. The CDC says getting vaccinated any time flu viruses are around is good.

What is the flu?

The flu, or influenza, is an illness caused by flu viruses. It spreads from person to person. Symptoms include fever, cough, and tiredness. The flu can lead to pneumonia and other serious illnesses.

What are the potential complications of the flu?

The flu is riskier for some, like older adults and children. Pregnant women and those with certain health issues also face higher risks. For these groups, it could even lead to hospital trips or death.

What are the benefits of flu vaccination?

Getting a flu vaccine cuts your risk of getting sick by up to 60%. If you still get sick, the vaccine might make your illness milder. For those likely to get very sick from the flu, the shot is crucial.

Is it still worth getting a flu shot later in the season?

Yes, it’s still helpful to get the flu shot as the season goes on. Flu activity can last until May. The vaccine keeps being recommended as long as the flu is around.

When does the CDC recommend getting a flu shot?

The CDC says to get your vaccine when it’s first available, usually by early fall. It takes two weeks for your body to be fully protected. But even later, the shot can still be beneficial.

How does the timing of flu season vary?

Flu season usually starts in fall and lasts through spring. The flu is most active from December to February. But, the season’s start and end can change each year.

What are the different types of flu vaccines?

You can get vaccinated with a flu shot or the nasal spray. Flu shots are a shot in your arm and have dead flu viruses. The nasal spray has live but weakened flu viruses and goes into your nose.

Who is considered high-risk for flu complications?

People with a higher flu complication risk include adults over 65. Pregnant women, young kids, and those with certain health problems are also at risk.

How does flu vaccination work for children?

Some children from 6 months to 8 years old need two flu vaccine doses. This is because their bodies might not react strong enough to one dose. Two doses can help make them better protected.

Is the flu vaccine safe?

Yes, flu vaccines are very safe. They go through lots of tests before they’re used. Over the past 50 years, hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. have safely gotten the flu vaccine.

Where can I get a flu shot?

You can get a flu vaccine in many places. This includes doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and local health places. You can also get it at work or school.

Can I get the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Yes, it’s safe to get the flu and COVID-19 shots together. The CDC suggests getting both vaccines at once. They won’t cause problems if you get them together.

What are some common concerns about the flu vaccine?

People worry about flu vaccine side effects and how well it works. The shot may cause light side effects but can’t give you the flu. It helps make the flu less severe if you still get it. 

Source Links

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/nivw/matte/matte-article_its-not-too-late_english_v1.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2022-2023/flu-vaccination-recommendations-adopted.htm
  3. https://www.livescience.com/health/viruses-infections-disease/is-it-too-late-to-get-a-flu-shot
  4. https://www.flu.com/Articles/2023/Flu-Shot-Timing-in-Flu-Season-Months
  5. https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/health-and-wellness/health-tips/the-truth-about-flu
  6. https://www.hamiltonhealthcenter.com/when-to-get-flu-shots/
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/vax-summary.htm
  8. https://www.goodrx.com/conditions/flu-vaccination/is-it-too-late-to-get-a-flu-shot
  9. https://www.walgreens.com/topic/pharmacy/seasonal-flu.jsp
  10. https://www.osfhealthcare.org/blog/late-get-flu-shot/
  11. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/coadministration.htm
  12. https://www.tmb.ie/diseases/flu-vaccine-in-january
  13. https://www.emergencyhospitals.care/its-not-too-late-to-get-the-flu-shot/