When is the best time to receive the flu vaccination?

4 May 2017

The Conversation piece provided some advice regarding waning immunity and the timing of the flu vaccination.

Here are the key messages:

  • In most of Australia, the peak flu season usually runs from August to September.
  • The flu vaccine produces a relatively short-lived immune response, about 6-12 months after vaccination. This is because the flu vaccine produces a weaker immune response than being infected.
  • How long it provides protection probably depends on the patient (some studies show elderly patients have a shorter immune response) and the virus (some influenza subtypes elicit a stronger immune response than others).
  • Studies that have looked at how important this is have shown conflicting results. While one study found the effectiveness of the vaccine against the A/H1N1 and A/H3N2 strains declined after three months, the other study found a decline only against A/H3N2 and B strains.
  • In the meantime, we generally recommend April to June is probably the optimal time for vaccination – early enough for your immune system to “learn” how to deal with the influenza virus for the peak flu season, but not so late you miss the peak flu season.
  • For doctors, there are other factors involved in deciding when to vaccinate a patient. If they don’t vaccinate a patient now, will they come back again before the influenza season hits? Are they are risk of getting influenza “out of season”?