Can You Get the Flu Shot and COVID Booster at the Same Time? Here's What Experts Say
When COVID-19 vaccines first started rolling out in early 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised people to wait at least two weeks before getting another immunization of any kind out of an "abundance of caution." But during the spring of 2021, they revised that guidance and now say the COVID-19 shot and other vaccines may be administered simultaneously.
The CDC has even offered up best practices for medical practitioners who go this route, noting that each injection should be given at a different site, spaced at least an inch apart (if it's given in the same arm or leg).
Now that flu season is here, and we're technically past the time that the CDC urged everyone to get their flu shot by, you may be playing catch-up. And now that the CDC has opened up eligibility for COVID booster shots to everyone over the age of 18, you might be looking to get that shot too. With both shots encouraged and available, it makes sense that you'd want to get your COVID booster (or even a shot in your initial COVID-19 series) at the same time as your flu shot, if only to save on time.
Of course, you may be wondering about the safety of getting both shots at the same time, and whether (or how) getting both could affect your immune immune response.
Can you get the flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same time?
Yup! While the CDC doesn't have explicit language on this, the organization does state that you can get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as any other vaccine—and that would technically include the booster shot.
Whether or not you get them at the same time, experts say you should get your shots. "It is important to get your booster shot if you are in a high-risk population for which a breakthrough infection could be serious," infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Health. "The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself against the complications of influenza."
There are "no negative effects to getting both of these vaccinations at the same time," Dr. Adalja says, adding "it is perfectly safe."
But while it's considered safe to get your booster shot and flu vaccine at the same time, Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York, tells Health that it's not a terrible idea to space these out a little if you can.
"From a pragmatic point of view, it needs to be individualized," he says. Some people may have noticeable side effects from the COVID-19 booster, Dr. Russo points out. "Depending on what you need to do the next day, you may be out of commission," he says, adding that, if you tend to have side effects from the flu shot, you could end up feeling crummy. Dr. Russo says that seniors in particular may be at risk for this because they're given the adjuvanted flu vaccine, which is specially created to prompt a better (ie, stronger) immune response.
The amount of time you're able to get off work may also be a factor, Dr. Russo says. "If you have limited availability because of your job to take time off, you might want to just go ahead and get them both at once," he says. "But for people who have the luxury of time and can space it out, I've been suggesting that."
Is it OK to get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?
If you haven't started or completed your initial COVID vaccine series yet, you're likely not even thinking about your booster shot yet. So what about for you—can you get the flu vaccine at the same time as your first or, for a two-dose series, second COVID dose? According to Cassandra M. Pierre, MD, MPH, an infectious disease physician and medical director of public health programs at Boston Medical Center, yes. She tells Health that not only is it safe to get both shots at the same time, she actually recommends doubling up if you haven't had either vaccine yet or you're due for your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to help prevent the spread of both diseases in the community.
While people are just starting to get these two particular vaccines at the same time, getting multiple immunizations in one appointment isn't a new practice. For example, Gigi Gronvall, PhD, Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells Health that kids routinely get several shots—for example, the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines—at the same appointment. So introducing multiple viruses to the body at once doesn't impact how well your immune system can protect you from them. "Your immune system is capable of chewing gum and walking at the same time," Gronvall says.
In other words: it's unlikely your body would struggle to create an immune response to influenza because it was mounting one to COVID-19, or vice versa. According to the CDC, immunogenicity—the ability of a vaccine to promote an immune response—and adverse events are generally similar whether one shot or multiple shots are given. Dr. Pierre says the same principle applies to both COVID-19 doses.
Either way, it's not likely you'll feel significantly worse after getting both shots than you would had you just gotten one. Nicolas Barros, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Indiana University Health, tells Health he suggests using different limbs, if possible, to avoid having a localized pain reaction on the same limb from two vaccines. And while Gronvall says you may feel crummy, especially if you typically feel crummy after vaccines, getting two vaccines doesn't mean you should feel double the side effects.
"So far, with people who have gotten both, there are no significant changes in side effects," says Dr. Barros.
When should I get the flu and COVID vaccines?
In general, Dr. Pierre says doctors recommend getting a flu vaccine near the beginning of flu season, which usually occurs from September to May. Gronvall suggests getting the flu shot by the end of October. Given that we're already past those dates, the timeline has simply shifted to ASAP. And because it's important that as many people get the COVID-19 vaccine or booster as soon as possible, there's especially no problem with knocking both out at one appointment.
No matter when you go, try to get both shots if you haven't been vaccinated already. Last year, because most people were staying home more, wearing masks, and physically distancing in public, the US had very low numbers of influenza cases compared to previous years. Now, as a more transmissible variant of COVID-19 continues to surge and this year's flu season is upon us, Dr. Pierre says it's ideal to seek protection against both. "We're really concerned about the resurfacing of influenza at a time when COVID-19 is rising," she says. "People are busy, so it's expedient to try to cut down on the number of appointments you have and just get both at once."
In the future, you may be able to get both the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines all in one shot; Dr. Pierre says several vaccine manufacturers are currently working on making co-vaccines. For now, though, you can get two jabs—ideally at the same appointment.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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