Health officials: now is the time to get a flu shot

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Area health experts said flu season is only weeks away from hitting eastern Iowa, and they say whether someone has had the flu in the past, the best way to protect from getting the flu is to get a flu shot early.

Staff at the Johnson County Public Health Department display the 2019-2020 flu vaccine on September 30, 2019. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)

Staff with the Johnson County Department of Public Health said a good indication it is time to get your flu shot is around about the time when you start seeing ads for them. To put it simply, the staff says the best time is right now.

Kate Klefstad, the Clinical Services Manager for Johnson County Public Health, explained that some people traditionally wait for later in the season, but says the time to get that flu shot should be much sooner in the season.

Klefstad said it typically takes about two weeks for your body to develop that immunity after the shot, and said it's better to get it now before it starts spreading.

"[The season] typically ramps up, and then starts ramping up quickly," Klefstad said. "And by then, there's flu around you when you're not immunized. So, it's better just to get it now, your immunity will last all the way through the flu season. There's no risk in getting it now and a lot of risk in waiting."

Klefstad says while some people may have not gotten the shot or the flu in the past, the numbers show getting that vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others.

"In the last couple years, around 80 percent of the people who end up passing away from the disease or end up being hospitalized, were people who didn't get the shot," Klefstad said. "So your personal experience may differ, but absolutely the numbers would say it is the best way to protect yourself."

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, at least 89 people in Iowa over the last year died related to a case of having the flu.

Klefstad also stressed the ease of access for getting a flu shot, and in many cases affordability.

"It's definitely not a difficult thing to get, pretty much every insurance covers it," Klefstad said. "If it doesn't, it's going to be a cheap out of pocket."

Klefstad said that her agency and many other public health departments have special accommodations for low-income or uninsured persons, so your best bet is to either call or show up and find out if you are eligible.