Here’s how getting each year’s flu shot could contribute to better immunity against future strains of the virus

Doctor explains how cumulative immunity works at better protecting yourself

A person gets a flu shot. (Nataliya Vaitkevich, Nataliya Vaitkevich via Pexels.)

You’ve likely been asked by your health care provider each year if you want to get your flu shot.

Each year’s new shot promises to give you the best protection against the strains of the current season, but experts say it can also help years down the line.

Cumulative immunity, as it’s called, is the theory that people who get flu shots each year have an advantage when they face new strains of the virus that might not be accounted for in the immunizations for the current season.

“We know someone like me who has had maybe 20 or more flu shots in their lifetime has more immunity than someone who has only had one or two inconsistently,” said Dr. Manuela Murray, a professor and provider with the UTMB Department of Pediatrics.

Manuela, who has received a flu shot each year that it’s been available to her, said she experienced the cumulative effect working firsthand many years ago.

“In 2009, when everyone was getting sick with the H1N1 strain of the flu during the Swine flu pandemic, I was working in the middle of urgent care seeing really sick patients around the clock—all while pregnant—and I never got sick,” Murray said. “I had all the markers to make me vulnerable to catch the illness, but I stayed well, and I attribute that to the many flu shots I had prior to that specific season.”

In a way, Murray said, her vigilance in getting her yearly flu shot also helped to protect her unborn twins, and during a time that was uncertain to many. The decision she made in each year prior to get her flu shot had a ripple effect.

In this area, flu season typically runs from October through March. To ensure you and your loved ones stay protected during the current season, doctors and clinicians recommend getting your flu shot.

To learn more about the flu, flu vaccines and to schedule an appointment to get your shot, click or tap here.