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The best time to get your flu shot is after Labor Day

Doctors are recommending people start thinking about getting your flu shot now to help protect yourself during the pandemic once flu season comes around.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Doctors are recommending people start thinking about getting your flu shot now to help protect yourself during the pandemic once flu season comes around.

On top of offering rapid COVID-19 tests, Kavanaugh Pharmacy owner Anne Pace is adding flu shots to her list.

"We've had them for about three weeks, but we've started encouraging people to go ahead and think about starting to get them," Pace said.

Just after Labor Day is when she recommends getting your shot. This gives the vaccine enough time to kick in before the flu season is in full swing. It takes about two weeks for it to become fully effective.

"So, we've done quite a few shots [Tuesday]," Pace said.

Pace said she there is some signs that show we may have a mild flu season this year. Australia and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere just finished their easiest flu seasons on record. 

But this should not stop you from getting your shot.

"The flu is a respiratory infection, so it would be really detrimental to get the flu and COVID," she said.

The flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID-19. But, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha at the Arkansas Department of Health said it can be helpful in figuring out which virus you have.

"The symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are very similar, it's very difficult to tell them apart without doing testing," Dr. Dillaha said. "If you just don’t get the flu at all, then that can be very helpful to a confusing clinical situation.”

Two different forms of the flu vaccine are available: the traditional shot or the nasal spray. The shot has an inactive virus that cannot cause the flu or get you sick. 

The nasal spray, on the other hand, is a live vaccine.

"It causes a mild illness and it results in a very good immune response to the flu. However, this is a weakened form of the flu so it cannot cause flu itself," Dr. Dillaha said.

It's best to talk with your doctor about which option is best for you.

"It is the one thing you can do to protect yourself from the flu and people around you as well," Pace said.

Your insurance should completely cover your flu vaccine. 

The Arkansas Department of Health also offers it for free at your local health unit.