Last year, public health experts were deeply concerned about the prospect of flu and a COVID-19 “twindemia”. But it turned out that seasonal influenza activity was unusually low. This was likely due to the combination of masking, stay-at-home orders, reduced travel, and people paying special attention to things like indoor ventilation.
No one knows yet what the next flu season has in store, especially with states’ varying approaches to masking and social distancing.
But one thing is clear: Health guidelines continue to state that everyone aged 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year. And that means millions of people will get their flu shot at the same time or about the same time that they receive a COVID booster dose (or, for some, their very first injection of the coronavirus vaccine).
Is it safe? Is there anything people should know about getting two vaccines at or around the same time? Here is what we know.
Yes, you can get the flu shot and the COVID vaccine at the same time
If you are eligible for a COVID vaccine, you can Absolutely get one the same time you get your flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is true whether you get your first or second injection of one of the mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer) or the Johnson & Johnson single injection vaccine. And it’s very likely that this is true if and when the booster shots are also going – although the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve them, and the booster shots are not without controversy.
“There’s no reason you can’t get both at the same time. They’re not going to thwart each other in any way, ”Karl Minges, dean of the School of Health Sciences at New Haven University, told HuffPost. “COVID vaccines use a very different mechanism to vaccinate an individual than the flu vaccine. “
In fact, Moderna recently announced that it is working on the development of an influenza vaccine and a COVID-19 booster, combining its existing COVID vaccine with an experimental influenza vaccine.
“The two-for-one approach is really appealing, especially if it becomes available to people who are afraid of needles or who don’t have time to go to a doctor’s office, clinic or pharmacy for get two injections, ”Minges said.
If you get both injections at the same time, side effects strength be worse
The most common side effects of the flu shot include pain or redness at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea, muscle pain, and fatigue. These symptoms overlap a lot with the more common side effects of the COVID vaccine and the booster dose.
If you receive the two injections at the same time (whether it is an initial dose of the coronavirus vaccine or a booster), they will likely be given in different arms, so you do not have to one really red and sensitive place.
“Everyone’s response is a little different, but these after-effects from any vaccine are possible, and it would seem logical that if you had both co-administered them, you might experience a little more of these after-effects, although it varies a lot from person to person, ”said Aaron Clark, family physician at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and medical director of the Ohio State Health Accountable Care Organization.
People who receive both vaccines at the same time may experience a bit more muscle aches or feel more feverish, Clark said. But most of the side effects of both vaccines are mild and go away within a day or two.
Clark added that the flu shot for the 2021-2022 season has just started, so there isn’t much national data yet on who gets both vaccines at the same time. He stressed that the main thing is that the flu vaccine and COVID vaccines are safe and effective.
“Co-administration of vaccines is a very common tactic that we use,” Clark said.
You should aim to get your flu shot in early fall
It is not yet possible to schedule your flu shot based on when you might receive a COVID reminder. This is because even though booster doses have been recommended by the Biden administration, they have not yet been approved by the FDA. Still, they could start rolling out in a few weeks for people who are eight months away from their last dose.
In general, September and October are the best times to get a flu shot. Experts always point out that it is absolutely worth getting the vaccine later in the fall or winter, as the flu season can peak in March and last until spring.
“I would say it’s always better to get the flu shot earlier, no matter the season,” Minges said. He added that a byproduct of minimal influenza activity worldwide last year is that experts have less information than usual to decide which specific influenza viruses to include in this year’s vaccine.
But that’s no reason to avoid getting the flu shot. And besides, there’s no way to know how bad this year’s flu season will be.
“The best defense against flu and COVID-19 is vaccination, number one,” Clark said. “And safe social distancing, wearing masks, washing your hands frequently, not going to school or work when you’re sick are all things we can continue to do to protect ourselves.”
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but directions may change as scientists find out more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.