Should I get my flu shot and my COVID-19 booster at the same time?
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized a new round of booster vaccinations for COVID-19, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that those who are eligible get one as soon as possible. The Pfizer/BioNTech booster is available to those 12 and up; Moderna’s is for those 18 and older.
This is also the time of year health experts recommend flu vaccinations, which are particularly important this year as early indications suggest flu season could be severe. Many experts have advised folks to get both the COVID booster and flu shot at the same time, although there’s concern that getting a flu shot this early could leave you vulnerable in the late winter months, when flu is still prevalent.
So, can you get both shots now? In short, yes, but there may be a more optimal way to go about it. I answer some questions below:
- Question Is it safe to get my COVID booster at the same time as my flu shot?
Yes. Research has indicated that it’s safe to get the booster and the flu vaccine at the same time. When COVID-19 vaccines first became available, the CDC recommended waiting two weeks between vaccines, but this was because they were new.
We didn’t know what the body’s response would be, nor whether any adverse effects that occurred were caused by the COVID vaccine being given with another vaccine. Now that we know the typical responses, this is no longer an issue.
- Question When’s the ideal time of year to get my flu shot? Is now too early?
The ideal time to get the flu vaccine is anytime between September and November. I generally recommend people get it between October and mid-November. Immunity wanes over a few months, so if you get it earlier than this, you can be left unprotected before flu season ends. We typically see the peak of flu season between December and February.
However, if you know you’re unlikely to go twice to get the COVID and flu vaccines separately, then now is an appropriate time to get both.
- Question If I choose to stagger the two shots, what interval do you suggest between them?
Generally, a two-week window between the vaccines is sufficient.
- Question Are there any indications as to how severe this flu season might be?
Yes, we often look to countries like Australia and others in the southern hemisphere because they experience their winter months during our summer seasons.
Australia has seen its worst flu season in five years, with cases starting a couple of months earlier than normal.
Also keep in mind that most people do not have natural immunity to flu, due to the low number of U.S. cases in the past couple of years. This makes a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19 even more likely this winter.
- Question I have typically had adverse reactions to COVID vaccines. Should that affect whether I get both shots at the same time?
No, it shouldn’t. Having a reaction to the vaccine in the past doesn’t necessarily mean the booster will impact you in the same way, and getting two vaccines at the same time also shouldn’t trigger an adverse reaction.
- Question Why is this COVID booster important, and does it differ from the previous boosters?
More people will be indoors due to cold weather as winter approaches, making them more likely to spread viruses to each other. Unlike the previous two winters, there are few, if any, mask mandates now, and individuals who may have avoided gatherings in the past may be back to interacting with family and friends in person. Protecting yourself is critical.
The new booster is effective in fighting four different strains of COVID-19, from the original SARS virus through the most recent strains, providing us with the most up-to-date immunity.