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Flu Season, Nothing to Sneeze At

A look at the supply and when to start getting shots

En español | As flu season rounds the corner, health advocates are sending a clear message to older Americans: Get your shot — now.

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An update on flu vaccine supply and CDC recommendations for this season. For the flu update on the web.

D. Hurst/Alamy

Have you gotten your flu shot?

Each year, people age 65 and older have the highest rates of influenza-related deaths and hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The best time to get the shot is before the flu starts circulating where you live," says Lisa Grohskopf, medical officer in the CDC's Influenza Division. The season generally runs from October through May.

The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone, starting at age 6 months, with only a few exceptions for people with rare health conditions.

"Because the virus changes year to year, the vaccine changes, too, so everyone needs to be vaccinated each year in order to be protected optimally," Grohskopf says.

If you're over 65, you have two options — the regular-strength flu shot or a higher-octane vaccine to combat age-related weakening of the immune system. Called Fluzone High-Dose, this pumped-up version contains four times the amount of antigen, intended to create a stronger immune response. Your health care provider can help you decide which dosage is better for you. Medicare and Medicaid cover both vaccines.

Many drugstores and grocery chains also provide the shots. To find locations near you, go to flushot.healthmap.org.

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