With sniffle season in full swing across the country, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your seasonal vaccines. Before the last couple years, this typically meant a flu shot for most people. But with covid seemingly here to stay, your annual fall trip to the doctor might include a covid booster, too.
And since you’re already there for a flu shot, you might as well get both at the same time. Right?
If you’re wondering whether you can even get a flu shot and a covid shot or booster at the same time, the short answer is yes – probably. The longer answer is that it depends on a few factors, as outlined below.
But first, let’s talk about the shots themselves and why we even need them in the first place.
Disclaimer: the following is meant as information only and shouldn’t be used to diagnose, treat or manage any health condition, including covid or the flu. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about when and how to get vaccinated.
You need an influenza (flu) shot every year. Scientists update this vaccine annually to try to match the currently circulating strains of the virus. An annual shot also keeps your immune defenses fresh.
Flu shots are available to people ages 6 months and up. Typically, this is a one-and-done shot for the year. There is an exception, though. Kids under age 9 need two doses if they’re getting a flu shot for the first time. Once a child has had two flu shots in one season, just one dose will be needed from then on.
Special flu vaccines are available for older adults, too. These provide a stronger immune boost for people ages 65 and up.
Flu vaccination is important every year. This year, though, it may be even more critical.
Experts are predicting a rough flu season that starts early and hits hard. That’s based, at least in part, on observing Australia’s recent flu season. Experiences from the land down under often foreshadow what’s going to happen with influenza in the U.S.
While the CDC recommended a 2022 flu shot by the end of October, you still have time. Flu season runs through the spring, so you can get the shot anytime. But of course, the sooner you do it, the better.
When covid vaccines were first developed, they were made to match the original strain of the virus. Since then, the virus has evolved quite a bit. Updated shots, also known as bivalent boosters, have been developed to better match the current variants.
If you got the original vaccine series but not an updated booster, you may need another boost. That can help strengthen your defenses against serious illness. It may reduce your chance of infection, too.
Recommendations say to get your updated booster as soon as possible — but only if it’s been at least two months since your last dose of a covid vaccine. For the maximum benefit, it’s also advisable to wait at least three months after coming down with a covid infection.
These guidelines apply to everyone ages 5 and up. Boosters are not yet approved for kids ages 4 and under.
The updated formula is currently available only as a booster. If you haven’t yet completed your primary series, you’ll have to do that first. Once you’ve received all the required doses of the original formula, then you’ll be eligible for the updated one.
But rest assured that any covid shot is better than none at all. The original strain should still help protect against severe disease until you’re able to get your bivalent booster.
Two for One Special?
You’ve probably figured out by now that time is of the essence. The sooner you get these shots, the sooner you’ll gain protection. But do you have to prioritize which one to get first, or can you do them on the same day?
Lucky for you, the CDC and other experts say that it’s fine to have your flu and covid shots done at the same time. The official term for this is “coadministration.”
Research shows that coadministration is safe. That’s true whether you’re getting your primary covid series or a bivalent booster. While there’s a chance you’ll experience slightly more side effects from having two shots in one day, you won’t be risking your long-term health or reducing the vaccines’ effectiveness.
There are also benefits to getting them done at the same time.
One of the best reasons to get your covid and flu shots at the same time is that it’s convenient. As long as you’re going to the pharmacy for one vaccine, you might as well get two. For busy people, the more tasks you can knock out during one trip, the better.
Also, you’ll fend off procrastination. It’s easy to say you’ll be back soon for a second shot, but that doesn’t mean it will actually happen. Life gets busy. Rather than spending the season with protection against only one infection, get both jabs at the same time to cross it off your list.
A Caveat for Some
For most people, getting flu and covid shots on the same day works well. If you’re a person who reacts strongly to vaccines, though, you might want to space them out. This is not a matter of safety but of comfort. Let your body work through the side effects of one shot before moving on to the second.
If you still want to get them both done at the same time but worry about side effects, think about getting your shots in two different arms. That way, maybe both arms will be just a little sore instead of one arm being very sore.
Perhaps you’re not yet eligible for your covid booster because of a recent dose or infection. Still, don’t delay your flu shot. Get it asap and come back for your covid vaccine when the time is right.
Along those same lines, although doing both shots at once is good advice at this point in 2022, it doesn’t mean it will be that way in years to come. Covid booster recommendations may change in the future.
As we enter the cooler months, you can expect germs to run rampant. Staying current on flu and covid shots is one of the best ways to protect yourself.
Vaccines may provide protection against coming down sick altogether. But if you do fall ill, recent immunizations should help protect you from serious complications.
Plus, vaccines help protect your community. By cutting down the chance of infection and the length of time you’re sick, fewer people might get infected, which could stem the spread of disease.