It's Flu Shot Season! Here's Everything You Need to Know About the 2022-2023 Flu Shot

With flu season only a few months away and COVID running rampant, the question on we’re all asking is: “How protective will this flu shot be?” and “Will it be different from flu shots in the past?”

Staying healthy and safe is on the forefront of all our minds, so here’s everything you need to know about this year’s flu shot:

When Can You Get the 2022-2023 Flu Shot?

The problem with the timing of the flu vaccine has to do with the unpredictability of the timing of the flu season. Without knowing when the flu season is likely to peak each year, it is difficult to say with certainty when people should be vaccinated. Based on past experience, September and October are probably the months when most people should be vaccinated, Dr. Mark Fierstein, MD, internal medicine specialist at NYU Langone Ambulatory Care Lake Success, explains.

Even though the vaccine was available earlier, most experts agree that vaccination in August is likely too early. Receiving the vaccine so early runs the risk of immunity starting to wear off later in the flu season. For people who have not been vaccinated by the end of October, they should still be vaccinated as long as there is flu in the community and the vaccine is still available.

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The upcoming flu season’s vaccines are usually available in the US by July or August. When exactly you should get immunized each year is uncertain and can depend on the individual, Dr. Mike Hoaglin, Medical Director of DrHouse. Ask your doctor the ideal month to get vaccinated especially if you’re pregnant, of advanced age or have a weakened immune system. 

Generally, think Goldilocks: aim not to get it too early or too late. The CDC recommends September or October for most people, Dr. Hoaglin adds. Getting vaccinated too early may leave you less protected against the flu late in the season. But even if October passes you by, it’s better late than never if the flu is going around.

If you’re pregnant in the third trimester, are traveling to the Southern Hemisphere before November, expecting exposure to a large global crowd such as at a convention or on a cruise ship, ask your doctor about whether earlier access to the flu shot is prudent. 

Where Can You Go to Get It?

There is usually no problem with the supply of flu vaccine. It is available in many physicians' offices (most commonly in primary care offices, but often in other specialties). It is usually available at urgent care centers, hospital clinics and pharmacies.

Public health offices may also administer flu vaccines. Finally, many employers and other venues—community centers, houses of worship and the like—arrange to have vaccination sessions where employees or members may get the vaccine, Dr. Fierstein states.

What’s Different for the 2022-2023 Flu Season?

The flu season in the southern hemisphere generally starts around April and this earlier start can provide clues to what the flu season will be like in the US and other northern hemisphere countries in the fall months, Dr. Erica Johnson, MD, Chair of the Infectious Disease Board at the American Board of Internal Medicine, explains. The southern hemisphere flu this year was more active than the prior two years, that is, much more like pre-COVID-19 pandemic flu seasons. So it is possible that the US may also see more flu activity this fall, which is why it is so important for people to get vaccinated.

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Each year they map out the variation of the flu activity that occurred earlier in the year and around the world. There are several different strains for influenza A and B. This year, for instance, will include: a Wisconsin H1N1-like virus, a Victoria H1N1-like virus; a Darwin H3N2-like virus, an Austria-like virus and a Phuket-like virus. The 2022-2023 season has been updated with two strains in comparison to the recommended composition from last season’s flu vaccine, Dr. Theodore Strange, MD, Chair of Medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, explains.

Viruses the Flu Shot Will Protect Against

The vaccines offered in the US each year are quadrivalent vaccines that have four targets, two types of influenza A virus and types of influenza B virus, Dr. Johnson explains. They are based on a prediction of what influenza viruses may circulate during the flu season.

Are Any of the Flu Shots Recommended Over Others?

There are different vaccine formulations—inactivated, recombinant, live attenuated—and recommendations can vary based on factors such as age, certain medical conditions, and presence of a serious allergy to egg. So it is best to make the decision based on each individual’s unique circumstances with a healthcare professional at the time of vaccination. But in general, the inactivated influenza vaccines have the broadest indications in the majority of children and adults, Dr. Johnson states.

Next up: How Many People Die Of the Flu Each Year? Doctors Break Down What Statistics Look Like—and How to Protect Yourself