Flu shots are no longer in the realm of the infirm — everybody is encouraged to get one.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that everyone in the United States, not just those most at risk, get vaccinated for the influenza virus. Local health departments are gearing up to make sure that everyone gets their shot.
Unlike other years in recent history, there is no shortage of vaccine this year.
"The vaccine is widely available. It's safe. It's effective," says Dr. William Schaffner of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. "You can't get flu from the flu vaccine. That's an old myth."
Because flu strains mutate from year to year, and several new strains are expected this year, Dr. Peter Troell of the Fairfax County Health Department says it's important to get re-immunized against the respiratory virus.
"You have to get vaccinated each year for two reasons," he says. "One, the vaccine you may have gotten in a previous year, the effect of that vaccine or the immunity it creates just sort of wanes over time. But on top of that, the vaccine strains that circulate in the community from year to year might not protect you from the vaccine strains that are going to circulate this year."
Over at the Montgomery County Health Department, there are 10 refrigerators stacked with vaccine, ready for the coming season. The county is planning 16 flu vaccine clinics starting in late October.
"It takes about two weeks after your flu vaccine to develop the antibodies that protect you against the flu," says nurse Debra Alpin, who works in the county's immunization program.
The CDC recommends everyone, except those with compromised immune systems, get an annual flu shot to protect against new strains of the virus.