Public Health Topics
Flu Watch

UPDATED November 2021

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. Most flu activity occurs between October and May, peaking between December and February in the United States. The flu vaccine protects against the flu after two weeks, so it is best to get vaccinated early in fall, by the end of October.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, flu vaccines remain vital. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, nationally, flu can cause between 9-35 million cases and on average 200,000 hospitalizations each year. The CDC estimates that anywhere from 5-20% of the population can get the flu each year. In Los Angeles County with more than 10 million residents, that means anywhere from a half a million to 2 million cases of flu can happen each season. 

Why the flu vaccine is important:

  • It’s the best way to prevent the flu.
  • It’s safe and effective.
  • It protects you against the harmful effects of flu.
  • You can protect others who are too young or unable to get vaccinated.
  • It can help keep people out of the hospital, which will prevent overwhelming the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who should get the flu vaccine:

Beach Cities Health District advises residents to follow flu vaccination guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exceptions.

Who should not get the flu vaccine:

  • Children younger than 6 months of age
  • People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine. This might include gelatin, antibiotics or other ingredients. See Special Considerations Regarding Egg Allergy for more information about egg allergies and the flu vaccine.

Anyone can get the flu, even healthy children and adults. High-risk populations include:

  • Children younger than five years old
  • Pregnant women
  • Persons 65 years of age and older
  • People with chronic medical conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, HIV, lung or heart disease)

Those in the above high-risk populations should make getting a flu shot a priority as they are at risk for more severe flu infections and negative health outcomes from getting the flu.

The same prevention tips to protect yourself from COVID-19 can also protect you from the flu.



Prevention Tip


Get the flu vaccine


Get the COVID-19 vaccine

Wear a face mask, especially indoors

Maintain physical distance – at least 6 feet apart

Avoid close contact with people who are sick

Stay home if you are sick

Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Cover your coughs and sneezes

Where to get the flu vaccine:

  • Your healthcare provider
  • Your local pharmacy
  • Call 2-1-1 for a location near you
  • Visit a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Clinic

Vaccines are an important public health measure to protect the health of not only yourself, but of your community. While Beach Cities Health District strongly recommends that health care providers, individuals and families follow the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)-recommended vaccination schedules, the Health District recognizes that this is a personal choice for individuals and families. Please do your research, educate yourself and talk with your health care provider to find out which vaccines are recommended for you, or if you have any concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t the flu just a bad cold?

No, the flu can be worse than a bad cold. Most people recover at home from flu after several days, but every year flu sickens millions of people in the United States and causes life-threatening complications that can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.

What are the common flu signs and symptoms?

Flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who are sick with the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Does the flu vaccine give you the flu?

No, flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness. Flu vaccines are made with either killed or weakened viruses that cannot cause illness. After getting vaccinated, you may experience a sore arm, body aches or low-grade fever. This is a sign that your body is making antibodies against the flu.

Does the flu vaccine work right away?

No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against infection. That’s why it’s best to get vaccinated before the flu starts to spread in your community.

Are flu vaccines safe?

Flu vaccines are very safe and have been given to millions of people in the United States for more than 50 years. Like any medicine, vaccines can have minor side effects, but most people who get the flu vaccine have no side effects at all.

I got a flu vaccine last year. Do I need another one?

Yes. The flu virus is always changing and every year the vaccination is updated to include new flu viruses. Even if you were vaccinated last year or have been sick with the flu, the viruses causing the flu this year may be completely different.

I have never got a flu vaccine and I have never been sick with the flu. Why should I get one now?

Many people will get sick with the flu during their life, including healthy people who get serious flu illness. People with the flu who only have mild symptoms can still make other people sick. It’s important to get a flu vaccine to protect yourself from getting the flu, but also to protect the people around you, especially those who are too young or unable to get vaccinated.

Can I get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

According to the CDC, yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same visit. You no longer need to wait 14 days between vaccinations. Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, is generally the same when a vaccine is given alone or with other vaccines.

What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Compared to the flu, COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant, seems to spread more easily and can cause more serious illnesses in some people. COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both the flu and COVID-19.

Visit the CDC to learn more about the differences between flu and COVID-19 including:

  • Signs and symptoms
  • How long symptoms appear after exposure and infection
  • How long someone can spread the virus
  • How it spreads
  • People at higher-risk for severe illness
  • Complications
  • Approved treatments
  • Vaccine