The CDC just published new flu vaccine guidelines: What you need to know

There's a notable change for people with egg allergies.

Flu season is coming. Here's what to know. (Getty Images)
Flu season is coming. Here's what to know. (Getty Images)

Flu season typically runs from October to May, making the unofficial start just weeks away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidelines for this flu season — and there's a surprising change in the mix.

Here's everything you need to know about the new flu guidance, plus how to prepare for this tricky time of year.

What's new about the guidelines?

This year's guidelines are "pretty standard, with one big exception," Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York, tells Yahoo Life. That's the CDC's position on which flu vaccines people with egg allergies can use.

The CDC says people with egg allergies can now get any vaccine — egg-based or non-egg-based — that is "otherwise appropriate for their age and health status." Previous recommendations had been that people with severe egg allergies should avoid egg-based vaccines.

"Data now shows that people who are egg-allergic really do not have a major contraindication to egg-based flu vaccines," Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Yahoo Life.

While this is new in the U.S., it isn't in other parts of the world. "The U.S. has now caught up to the Canadians and Europeans, who for some time have looked at the data regarding rare but serious allergic reactions with the flu vaccine and have come to the conclusion that eggs have almost nothing to do with it," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says.

Schaffner says that "there will be a few people who are still twitchy" about getting an egg-based vaccine, noting that egg-free vaccines will continue to be available.

What's in this year's flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines for this season are designed to target these strains, per the CDC:

Egg-based vaccines

  • A/Victoria/4897/2022 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus

  • A/Darwin/9/2021 (H3N2)-like virus

  • B/Austria/1359417/2021 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus

  • B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus

Cell- or recombinant-based vaccines

  • A/Wisconsin/67/2022 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus

  • A/Darwin/6/2021 (H3N2)-like virus

  • B/Austria/1359417/2021 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus

  • B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus

Worth noting: There is just one update to this year's flu vaccine from last year's.

As for how effective this year's vaccine will be, Russo says we'll have to wait and see. "Sometimes we hit, sometimes we miss," he says. "It happens every single year."

When will flu vaccines become available?

They'll be available soon. Many major pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, are allowing people to schedule vaccine appointments for as early as Sept. 1. Some pharmacies may even offer them now, along with doctor's offices — it really depends on when supplies arrive at any given location, Russo says.

When should I get my flu vaccine?

It's best to hold off a little if you can. "Ideally, you want to get your flu vaccine at the end of September, in October or the very first week or so in November — that's the ideal time," Schaffner says. Timing your flu vaccine this way helps ensure you have adequate protection through the peak of flu season, he explains.

"If you get it too early, the protection begins to wane at the end of the flu season," he adds.

There is an exception, though: Children under the age of 8 who have never received a flu vaccine will need two doses, separated by a month, Schaffner points out. If your child meets those criteria, he recommends contacting your pediatrician to get an appointment scheduled now.

When is flu season at its worst?

Flu season usually peaks between December and February, per the CDC, which is why the timing of your vaccine is important. "It doesn’t make sense to get vaccinated this early," Adalja says.

How can I prepare for flu season?

Getting vaccinated is an important place to start, Russo says. "Vaccination is the pillar of protection," he says.

But he also suggests that you keep high-quality masks handy in case flu activity rises in your area and that you remain aware of risk-benefit situations as flu cases increase. "If you're high-risk, you may want to avoid scenarios that are indoors, with lots of people and poor ventilation," Russo says.

Schaffner says this year's flu activity is likely to increase in October, as opposed to last year, when it started early. "There will be flu. Will it be mild, moderate or severe this year? We just don't know," he says. "But there will be flu, and we should protect ourselves."