COVID-19 Vaccine and Flu Shot Spacing: Is It Needed?
October 04, 2021
Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 and the flu. But if you're getting a COVID-19 vaccine -- either as a booster or for the first time -- should you worry about timing it with your flu shot? Is it OK to get both this fall? And do you have to space out a COVID vaccine and a flu shot?
Federal agencies recently authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, frontline workers such as health care and safety workers and adults with underlying conditions. With this year's flu shots also rolling out, UH infectious disease specialist Keith Armitage, MD, says it’s perfectly fine to get both shots at the same time.
“When the COVID-19 vaccines were first approved, the recommendation was to not get a vaccine two weeks before or after. The reason for this was to not confuse adverse reactions,” says Dr. Armitage, medical director of the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health. “By now there has been so much experience with COVID vaccines, this no longer applies. It is absolutely okay to get a flu shot and COVID shot on the same visit.”
Severe Flu Season May Be Coming
Health officials are warning that flu season may be more severe than normal. That’s because we didn’t have much of a flu season in 2020-2021, and our immunities have waned.
Dr. Armitage says flu shots reduce risk of getting the flu and significantly reduce the odds of getting severely sick if you do catch the flu.
There will be many people getting flu shots and COVID-19 booster shots at the same time, in addition to those getting their first COVID-19 vaccines. Flu shots are recommended in September and October. It takes about two weeks after vaccination to develop antibodies.
“Typically, we can start seeing influenza outbreaks as early as November some years,” Dr. Armitage says. “For sure, you should have a flu shot by November.”
Flu Season Can Extend To Spring
Flu season typically peaks December to February, but the virus can circulate through May.
Flu can be especially severe or deadly to elderly adults, very young children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people age 6 months and older be vaccinated.
The flu shot can’t give you the flu. But side effects can make you feel mildly ill for a short time. The most common side effects from a flu shot are achiness, low-grade fever and soreness where the shot was given.
Many experts are concerned about a “twindemic” of flu cases amid a surge of infections and hospitalizations from the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.
“The Delta variant is so contagious, anyone unvaccinated is likely to get sick and is at risk for severe illness,” Dr. Armitage says. “Influenza is not as serious, but can also be fatal in higher risk patients.”
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