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A man receives a flu shot in Washington, DC, in January.
A man receives a flu shot in Washington, DC, in January. Eva Hambach / AFP / Getty Images

At least two companies that make influenza vaccines have started shipping them to doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and other customers in the United States, but it’s too early for people to think about getting one.

GlaxoSmithKline said Tuesday that it began shipping some of the more than 50 million vaccines it hopes to supply for this flu season in the United States. Sanofi Pasteur, another pharmaceutical company, said last week that it also started shipping to the US market, but did not say how many doses it expected to make.

Why this matters: US health officials say it will be more important than ever to get a flu shot this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be difficult enough for hospitals and doctors to deal with a rapidly spreading and life-threatening respiratory virus, let alone two. Also, no one knows what could happen if people were infected with both viruses at the same time.

Because of this, Glaxo and Sanofi say they are increasing their production to meet the expected growth in demand.

“GSK expects to supply more than 50 million doses of its influenza vaccines to the US market in the 2020-21 season, an increase from the 46 million it distributed during the 2019-20 influenza season,” the company said in a released Tuesday.

But people will have to wait to get vaccinated.

“While vaccine shipments to healthcare providers have started, getting vaccinated in July or August is too early, especially for older people, due to concerns that protection will be reduced if there is too much time between vaccination and high flu season. According to the CDC, September and October are good times to get vaccinated. However, as long as influenza viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later, “Sanofi said in his statement.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while the flu shot takes two weeks to take effect, people shouldn’t get it in the summer.

“Getting vaccinated early (for example, in July or August) is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults,” the CDC says.

The CDC recommends that almost everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot every year. The vaccine formulation changes from year to year to try to match regular mutations of the virus and changes in its circulation.