Although autumn formally begins on Wednesday, public health authorities are urging the public -- from infants aged six months and up through the elderly -- to get their annual influenza shot as soon as possible. As it takes a few weeks for antibodies to be produced in the body in reaction to the killed virus, protection will not be immediate.Thus all four health funds have already purchased millions of doses.Because the Jewish High Holidays are late, in October, health fund clinics that administer the free injections will be closed many days in that month.The Israel Pediatrics Association reports that the number of flu cases among schoolchildren has already increased “significantly” with the return of youngsters to schools and kindergartens. The number is already in the thousands around the country, and it has risen significantly compared to last week, the association said.The injection is good for only one year, as new strains of the virus appear in southeast Asia first and them migrate to the rest of the world, and each strain requires a special component in the vaccine.While healthy people who have the flu are miserable for a few days with high fever, sore throat, cough and head and body aches and pains, infants, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic illness and the elderly can get complications and even die. Healthy people who are in occupations in which there is no one to replace them are also advised to get the shot.One can get the flu after being vaccinated, as the protection is about 80%, but such a case is considerably milder than in those who have not been vaccinated, the doctors said. Children who are asthmatic and whose respiratory systems are delicate especially need the vaccine. People who work in hospitals or in community clinics where there are chronic patients should be vaccinated to protect themselves and prevent themselves from infecting patients with potentially dangerous infections.The Health Ministry has decided to vaccine in school all second graders in the hope that they will not infect other children. It is the first time that flu vaccine will be offered not only in health fund clinics but also in schools. The Flumist flu vaccine, in nasal spray form, will not be available this year (because of claims it is not effective enough).Dr. Menashe Shabi, the director of Clalit Health Services’ central district, was proud that his medical teams in Ashdod volunteered to vaccinate each other and their children against the highly infectious viral disease. Clalit will vaccinate its members until the end of March or until it runs out of vaccines, but people are urged to come in as soon as possible.