Nashville, TN (WSMV) – The flu season begins October 1st and doctors are already encouraging you to get the flu vaccine.

Just this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new policy guidance encouraging parents and children to get the flu vaccine “preferably by the end of October, with either the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine” as it reads.

Within the new guidance, the AAP says the annual flu vaccine significantly reduces a child's risk of severe flu and death, especially in children younger than 5 years old.

"We know every year that in TN and across the country, the flu/pneumonia category is always in the Top 10 for leading causes of death -- especially in the very young and elderly and those who have a chronic illness," says Brian Todd, Spokesperson for the Metro Public Health Department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 129 children died in the 2018-2019 flu season, and 80 percent of children who died the previous year from flu-related complications had not been vaccinated against the flu.

Health officials say it takes your body two weeks after receiving the vaccine to develop the antibodies necessary to fight the flu, which is why the CDC and AAP are encouraging people to get vaccinated before Halloween.

“Most years, we really start to see flu-like illness ramp up [in Tennessee] about the second week in December, so the earlier you get the vaccine, the better,” says Todd.

The CDC has released a list of people who are most at risk of severe flu illness that could result in hospitalization or death. It includes children under 5 years old, adults over the age of 65, pregnant women, people living in nursing homes, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma and heart disease, as well as anyone considered obese.

Todd says vaccinating yourself and your family ensures you stay healthy and prevent the spread of more dangerous germs.  

“If you’re looking for the best protection from influenza, get the flu shot because that will be the best protection,” says Todd. “If you’re washing your hands regularly, you’re going to prevent some of those germs reaching to where you get sick.”

This year, the CDC has expressed the shot and the nasal spray as being equivalent in their ability to protect people against the flu. It is different from previous flu seasons when the shot was said to be superior.

“It’s never too early to do all you can to stop the spread of germs,” says Todd.

To find a flu vaccine available near you, click here.

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Anchor/Reporter

Lauren Lowrey joined News4 as an anchor in December 2018.

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