The COVID-19 vaccine has dominated headlines for months. But now, there’s another vaccine to have on your radar: the flu shot.
If you’ve already been vaccinated against COVID-19, the window to get your flu shot may overlap with the timeframe to get a COVID-19 booster shot. In case you missed it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on August 18 that people who received the two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccines should get booster shots eight months after receiving their second dose for maximum protection. Third shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines will be offered starting the week of September 20.
And, of course, if you’re considering getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first place, your shots could also overlap with your seasonal flu vaccine (which the CDC recommends you get by the end of October).
This raises a huge question: Is it OK to get a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time? And what might the possible side effects be if you do? Here’s what you need to know.
Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time?
Yes. When the COVID-19 vaccines were first granted emergency use authorization, the CDC recommended waiting 14 days between getting that and any other vaccine, says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. This was in order to make sure both vaccines would be effective and to minimize side effects. But the CDC now says that it’s OK to get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines in the same visit. “Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, after getting vaccinated and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines,” the CDC says online.
“There’s no restriction on any vaccination co-administration,” says Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “This makes it more convenient.”
But is it a good idea to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at once?
Again, the CDC says you’re perfectly fine to go this route. But doctors say you might want to consider a few things before you roll up both sleeves at once.
Both arms might hurt
At a very basic level, you could be dealing with two sore arms, says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “You’ll get an inoculation in each arm,” he points out. “It’s OK to do this and your body will deal with it in a perfectly normal way, but do you want to be walking around with two sore arms at once?”
Studies haven’t been done on receiving both shots at once
Dr. Schaffner says it’s “really tough to say” what you might feel like or what potential side effects you could experience if you get both vaccines simultaneously. “Careful studies haven’t been done on this,” he points out.
Side effects will depend on your past reactions to both vaccines
If you’re worried about worsening potential side effects, like a fever or feeling blah, if you get the vaccines together, Dr. Schaffner says that “a lot will depend on your previous experience with the vaccines.” Meaning, if you tend to get a slight fever after the flu vaccine and you got a fever after your COVID-19 vaccine, there’s a decent chance you’ll experience the same if you get them together—and possibly even more intensely than if you receive one at a time. Ditto for having a sore arm, or any other side effect.
The bottom line
“If it’s more convenient for you to get both vaccines at once, then go for it,” Dr. Schaffner says. But, if you can space them out a little and you’re nervous about potential side effects, he suggests waiting a week or two between shots.
Whatever you do, doctors recommend getting both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu shot. “The consequences of getting both COVID and the flu are not great,” Dr. Russo says. “You’ll want to get vaccinated."
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