Look, the flu is scary this year, and people in every age group have died as a result of this dangerous, fast-spreading strain of influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You already know that the best way to protect yourself is to get a flu shot, but in a long, miserable flu season, is one shot enough? Can you get two flu shots? Can your kids?
"As a flu season progresses, the protection conferred by a flu vaccination wears off with time," explains Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, in an interview with Romper. "There is some evidence that at the tail end of a season, there could be benefits in getting a second dose of the vaccine in order to boost immunity. This fact is another reason why a new flu vaccine is so desperately needed. However, there are still many who forgo even one shot of the flu vaccine, let alone two."
Currently, the CDC only recommends one standard flu shot per season for adults — and yes, there's still time to get a flu shot now, with the 2017 to 2018 season at its peak. However, for some children, a second dose of the vaccine may indeed be necessary. "Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season," explained the CDC on its website during the 2016 to 2017 flu season. "All children who have previously gotten two doses of vaccine (at any time) only need one dose of vaccine this season." A second shot should be administered at least 28 days after the first dose. As the CDC explained, the first shot only prepares the immune system. The second dose does the actual work of protecting your child from the flu. "Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine," the site maintained.
Because children under 5 years of age are at increased risk of serious complications like pneumonia, you should certainly ask your doctor how many shots they'll need. The Mayo Clinic also cautioned parents to inform their doctors if their children have an egg allergy — standard flu vaccines contain a small amount of egg, but options are available. This year, the nasal spray flu vaccine isn't recommended, because it hasn't been shown to be effective, according to Immunize.org.
Because vaccine research is always evolving, it's possible that in future seasons a second shot will be recommended for everyone. Right now, however, a single flu shot is still considered adequate for adults.
It's impossible to stress how important it is to vaccinate yourself and your family. So far, 37 children have succumbed to complications from the flu, reported The Washington Post, and even healthy adults have been hit hard. While a shot can't make you bulletproof — in fact, you may still contract the flu — a study in Pediatrics recently showed that children who received the flu vaccine had lower mortality rates than those who didn't.
Where can you get vaccinated? At this point in a hectic flu season, a better question might be, where can't you? My local grocery store — a neighborhood Safeway with a pharmacy — is currently offering 10 percent off groceries for those who get vaccinated. You can also get a flu shot at drug stores, pop-up stores, and at your doctor's office. To find the closest vaccination location near you, enter your zip code in the CDC's Flu Vaccine Finder. Especially if you have young children, getting vaccinated may be the most important resolution you make this year.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.