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COVID-19

Yes, It’s OK To Get Your Flu and COVID-19 Vaccines Together, and Here’s Why You Should

Published: Oct. 7, 2021

If you’re one of many individuals who made it through the last flu season unscathed, you may be tempted to forego a flu shot this time around.

Don’t.

Mask requirements helped protect many of us from becoming ill with influenza and other respiratory infections last winter, but here’s what experts are predicting this winter: higher rates of illness, more kids missing school, crowded clinics and increased pressure on health care workers who are already strained with a growing number of hospitalized COVID-positive patients.

Of course, there are two important steps we all can take to prevent a dismal next few months:

  • Continue masking.
  • Get vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19.


Understanding Booster Basics

COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out in December 2020. Almost a year later – as many of us are lining up for an annual flu vaccine – some individuals are also lining up for a COVID-19 booster.

Before you head out to get yours, here are some things you need to know:

  • If you’re immunocompromised, a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (whichever vaccine you received initially) is recommended at least 28 days (four weeks) after your second dose.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available as a booster for those who completed their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine series at least six months ago and are:
  • 65 or older
  • 18 or older and have an underlying condition (heart disease, obesity, kidney disease, diabetes, pregnant, etc.) that puts them at risk for severe COVID-19 infection
  • 18 or older and work in an environment that puts them at risk for acquiring COVID-19 infection (teacher, day care worker, health care worker, grocery store employee, etc.)
  • Crossing vaccines is not recommended at this time, meaning it’s not advised to get the Pfizer-BioNTech booster if your initial vaccine series was Moderna.


Addressing Concerns

Can I get the flu shot around the same time as my COVID-19 vaccine or booster?

This is one of the most common questions regarding vaccination right now.

The answer is: Yes! You can get the flu shot and the first, second or third dose of your COVID-19 vaccine on the same day, back-to-back, if you wish.

Talk about convenience! Our lives are busy. Making one stop for two shots saves time and is perfectly safe.

Of course, choosing to space the vaccines out a bit is also perfectly acceptable. But remember, the sooner you get vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19, the sooner you’ll have protection against both.


Will my side effects be worse if I get both shots together?

I’ve heard some people express concerns over experiencing greater vaccine side effects (arm soreness, body aches, headache, fever, chills, stomach issues, etc.) if they stack the two vaccines.

Some people have reported less side effects with the COVID-19 booster than with their initial series, but others have reported the opposite. As we’ve known all along, everyone is different. There’s no way to predict what kind of side effects – if any – you’ll experience. Just remember: Vaccine side effects typically don’t last longer than a couple days.


What if my immune system doesn’t know how to handle the vaccines together? Could they battle against each other?

I’ve also heard from individuals who worry their immune response won’t be as great if they subject their bodies to two different vaccines at the same time. However, there's no data that confirms that.

Our immune systems can handle a great deal, and that includes multiple immunizations in one sitting –take kids and travelers for example.
 

I’m fine with getting the flu shot – I’ve done so for years. But why would I trust such a new vaccine that people seem to keep pushing on me?

I understand why many people may be more comfortable with the flu vaccine. However, we know COVID-19 can hit us much harder than the flu. Also, COVID-19 vaccines are much more effective than flu vaccines.

The flu shot is made every fall with the help of surveillance data. Essentially, it’s the result of an educated guess on which influenza strains are most likely to circulate in the winter months. It’s a vaccine that’s rolled out before the virus strikes.

COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out after the virus struck. It’s the result of using science to prevent a virus we already know is circulating. This ensures more targeted and effective protection against infection.


Looking Ahead

Other Vaccine Boosters

It’s still unclear if or when the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available as boosters to non-immunocompromised adults. This month, however, an FDA advisory panel is slated to discuss Moderna’s request for boosters and whether those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine need a booster.
 

COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

Panel discussion on Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine data for children ages 5 to 11 is also slated for this month. Experts expect the vaccine to receive emergency use authorization for this age group shortly after.

While we continue waiting for our young children’s COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, now is a great time to get their flu shots out of the way. Although it’s likely that children will be able to receive both vaccines together, that’s still unclear.

Bottom line: Our kids are watching all the steps we take to stay healthy, and they trust that we’ll help them do the same. Now is not the time to lead them astray. Mask up. Get vaccinated. Trust the science. Know the facts. And reach out to your primary care provider if you still have questions about these two critical vaccinations.

More Resources

About the Author

Dr. Jessica Jones enjoys helping patients solve their medical problems. Seeing medical care as similar to detective work, Dr. Jones saw becoming an Infectious Disease Specialist as a natural fit. The Creighton University medical school graduate completed her residency at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. 

You can see Dr. Jones at the Methodist Physicians Clinic Infectious Disease Clinic. 

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