Primary Care

Should I Time My Flu Shot Around the COVID-19 Vaccine?

September 10, 2021
senior woman showing arm with 'Got vaccinated' sticker on

Flu season is upon us again, and the good news is flu vaccines are already available to help protect you from influenza. Because COVID-19 cases continue to rise, many people are getting a COVID-19 vaccine, too. Here is what you should know about the flu vaccine and when you should get one.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), flu vaccination prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. In fact, during 2019-2020, flu vaccination prevented:

  • An estimated 7.5 million influenza (flu) illnesses
  • 3.7 million flu-related medical visits
  • 105,000 flu-related hospitalizations
  • 6,300 flu-related deaths

“Several studies have shown that flu vaccines reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick,” says Rebekah Sensenig, D.O., Infectious Disease Specialist for Riverside Health.

When Should I Get the Flu Vaccine?

The flu shot is effective for six months, so October is a good time to get the flu vaccine. CDC offers the following guidance on when certain groups of people should get their flu shot:

  • Adults, especially those 65 years and older, should not get vaccinated early (in July or August), because protection may decrease over time.
  • Children can get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available, even if this is in July or August. Some children need two doses of flu vaccine. For those children, CDC recommends getting the first dose as soon as vaccine is available, because the second dose needs to be given at least 4 weeks after the first.
  • Early vaccination can also be considered for people who are in the third trimester of pregnancy, because this can help protect their infants during the first months of life (when they are too young to be vaccinated).

Can I Get the Flu Vaccine and COVID-19 Vaccine at the Same Time?

  • Yes. According to CDC, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same visit. You don’t need to wait 14 days between vaccinations. However, if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to a flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before you get vaccinated.  
  • Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, (also called an immune response) after getting vaccinated, and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines. 
  • Most people choose to receive their flu and COVID-19 vaccine in different arms, to reduce pain at the injection site.

Can My Child Get a Flu Shot?

Except in rare instances, children can get a flu vaccine. Flu shots can save the lives of children, and studies suggest that flu vaccination can greatly reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu. 

Check with your child’s pediatrician about whether your child should get a flu shot. The CDC also has a helpful resource on who cannot get a flu vaccine and who should talk to their doctor before getting a flu vaccine: Who Should & Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated.

Why Is Getting a Flu Shot So Important? 

“There are so many reasons to get a flu vaccine this year, especially during the pandemic when COVID-19 transmission rates are so high,” says Dr. Sensenig. 

Do you need more reasons to get your flu shot? The CDC states that flu vaccines:

  • Can Lower the Risk of Flu-Related Hospitalization 
    According to CDC, flu vaccination prevents tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year. For example, during 2019-2020 flu vaccination prevented approximately 105,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
  • Are Important for People with Chronic Health Conditions
    • CDC states that flu shots are associated with lower rates of cardiac problems among people with heart disease, especially for those who have had a cardiac event within the past year. 
    • Flu shots can lower the risk of flu-related complications of chronic lung disease (such as COPD) which could require hospitalization.
  • Help Protect Pregnant Women During and After Pregnancy 
    • Flu shots reduce the risk of flu-related acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by approximately one half.
    • Several studies suggest that in addition to helping protect pregnant people from flu, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect the baby from flu for several months after birth.
  • Help Protect the People Around You
    This includes people who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with serious health conditions.

Planning Your Flu Shot 

As part of our commitment to your good health, Riverside is offering free drive-thru or walk-up Flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics on a first-come basis, while vaccine supplies last. No appointment is needed.

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