It’s that time of year again: flu season. The exact timing varies, but typically cases begin to show up in October, with the peak of the season occurring from December to February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And again, we not only have to deal with the flu circulating, but we’re also still in the COVID-19 pandemic, which means there’s an increased risk of serious illness from both viruses as as we enter the colder months. So it’s doubly important that you make sure you’re up to date on your COVID vaccinations and your flu shot. Especially now that there is a new bivalent COVID vaccine that protects against the highly contagious omicron variant.
Can you check two things off your to-do list at once and get those shots on the same day? Here’s what you need to know to get the new COVID booster and the flu shot at the same time.
“There is no danger in getting the flu shot and the new COVID booster at the same time. It’s safe to get both shots in one visit,” said Dr. Andy Anderson, executive vice president and chief medical officer and chief quality officer at RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey.
If you decide to get vaccinated on the same day, it is recommended that you get vaccinated in each arm, he added.
This is beneficial because you will be protected against both viruses as soon as possible.
“By giving them at the same time, we are more likely to ensure that people are protected against both diseases,” said Dr. Laolu Fayanju, Ohio-based family medicine specialist at Oak Street Health. “Flu and COVID are circulating.”
If you receive both vaccines on the same day, you will be protected sooner against serious illness and complications such as hospitalization and death, he noted. Keep in mind that it takes two weeks for both vaccines to take full effect.
It’s important for everyone, but it’s especially important for people at high risk of serious illness, such as the elderly, people with asthma and other illnesses, who need to be protected against both diseases. as soon as possible.
In addition, you will only have to deal with the side effects of the vaccine once.
“When taken together, [the new COVID booster and flu shot] show similar reactogenicity, meaning the body’s natural response to vaccines,” Fayanju said.
In other words, the vaccine side effects that you are probably familiar with at this point (headache, fever, fatigue, body aches) are known to happen with both vaccines. If you receive the injections on the same day, you will only have to deal with these side effects for one day instead of two.
Anderson added that “the CDC notes that the way our bodies develop protection and the possible side effects are generally similar whether the vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines.
That means your side effects probably won’t be worse if you get both injections on the same day, Anderson said. That said, it’s still possible to feel pretty crummy after the vaccination. Make sure you’re hydrated, rested, and ready to relax the next day in case you wake up unwell.
And it will save time.
Going to a doctor’s appointment isn’t normally the most exciting part of your day, and you probably have plenty of other things to do as well. But if you can get both shots at the same appointment, you’ll only have to venture to the doctor once, not twice, for those shots.
“If we can save time for our patients and make sure they get these vaccines at the same time…I think that’s to the benefit of the patient,” Fayanju said. And who doesn’t want to save time when possible?
Consult your doctor to schedule both injections.
Although both experts say you can get vaccinated at the same time, you should still consult your doctor if you’re in doubt. Some people may not yet be eligible for both injections.
For most people, the recommended time for the flu shot is September or October, Anderson said, but the recommended time for the new COVID booster depends on a few factors: First, people who recently got their COVID booster or their first vaccine would have to wait at least two months to get this new COVID vaccine. Also, people who have just had COVID can wait up to three months to get this booster. Finally, only those 18 and older can get the Moderna booster. The new Pfizer shot is licensed for ages 12 and up.
If you fall into one of these categories, you shouldn’t delay your flu shot just to consolidate your appointments. In this case, you will want to protect yourself against the flu first.
If you don’t belong to these categories, you are free to get the new reminder now.
Keep in mind that relaxed public health precautions could mean a more severe flu season.
At the height of the pandemic, cases of influenza were few. It likely had to do with the public health measures — like masking and social distancing — that were in effect. Now that those precautions are gone in most scenarios, flu cases will likely increase as well.
Additionally, Australia has had a bad flu season this year, and "wWe can learn a lot from how our flu seasons here in the Northern Hemisphere will unfold based on what happens in the Southern Hemisphere,” Fayanju said.
It would therefore not be surprising if we also face a difficult flu season.
“The flu kills tens of thousands of people” every year, Fayanju said. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against the virus.
Beyond that, COVID has killed over a million Americans so far and continues to infect people on a daily basis. Being protected against these contagious strains of COVID and the flu can only benefit you this fall and winter.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but advice may change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.