Get your flu shot early this year, local doctor urges

Get your flu shot early this year, local doctor urges

BOSTON — While most of the public health focus in recent weeks has been about EEE, health experts say it's not too early to think about the flu.

Kathy Shionis takes no chances when it comes to getting her flu shot.

"I just think it makes a big difference," she said, adding that the year she didn't get the shot, she ended up in the hospital.

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A moderate to severe flu season is forecast for the US, says Dr. Ali Raja, vice chairman of emergency medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

He said normally, October is a good time to get a flu vaccine, which typically lasts about six months. But because flu season has peaked a month or two early in places like Australia, he's advising people to get it even earlier -- in mid-to-late September.

Some stores have already begun stocking flu vaccine anticipating a rough season ahead.

"By early September all of our stores were fully stocked with the quadrivalent vaccine which is for people under 65, as well as two different types of specialized senior vaccine," said Brittany Orlando, a clinical pharmacist with Stop & Shop Pharmacy.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone gets a flu shot, Orlando says pregnant women, young children, and seniors are at higher risk than most.

While flu vaccine effectiveness can vary greatly, Raja says early data from Australia shows this year's vaccine is performing well.

According to the Department of Public Health, widespread activity does not necessarily indicate that flu activity is severe for all regions in Massachusetts. For the 2017-2018 season, flu was widespread for 33 out of 40 weeks, and in 2018-2019, flu was widespread for 31 out of 40 weeks.