Should I get the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine/booster? As flu season approaches and the discussion heats up about COVID-19 booster shots, many are asking whether they should get one, the other, or both. Hopefully by now you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but regardless, in the coming weeks to months, you will have the opportunity to protect yourself against the flu. Should you get either vaccine? Can you take both at the same time?
As a consultant pharmacist, I get asked thought-provoking questions daily. Sometimes the answer is quick, and the evidence is clear and sometimes it requires looking at all the available information and making an informed clinical or regulatory decision. Medicine is an ever-evolving field, and new standards are developed and implemented on a regular basis. Clinical practice guidelines also get updated, as do regulatory licensing and accrediting requirements. It’s no surprise that this also applies to our ongoing battle with COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season.
Our knowledge base on the topic of COVID-19 is vastly different today than it was just a few months ago. Remember wondering if there would ever be a vaccine against this dreaded virus? That was only one year ago. Despite vaccine hesitancy still being a real thing and many people refusing to get vaccinated, we are now discussing COVID-19 booster shots, something that wasn’t even possible twelve months ago. As we work our way through figuring out the necessity and timing of booster shots, it comes at the same time of year when we start preparing for flu season.
Although healthcare facilities take many different steps to protect staff and patients from the flu each year, one of the best preventive measures available is the flu vaccine. No, it’s not perfect…nothing ever is, but it is highly effective at preventing morbidity and mortality, which ultimately saves lives. So, whether you’re still contemplating the initial vaccination against COVID-19, or are starting to think about the potential for the booster, how should you handle the timing of the two vaccines? Should you get them both at the same time? What will this flu season be like?
The 2020-2021 flu season was mild compared to previous years due to social distancing precautions and mask wearing mandates. Common sense tells us that this year’s flu season is likely to be worse than last years because of the loosening of mask-wearing mandates and the fact that folks have grown tired of the restrictions and in many ways are less compliant. In addition to wearing masks, social distancing, and good handwashing hygiene, what more can you do to make the flu season less severe? Get vaccinated!
In terms of timing, the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines during the same visit. You no longer need to wait 14 days between vaccinations. For the sake of helping reduce vaccine hesitancy, it’s important to note that neither vaccine can cause the disease it is meant to prevent…the flu shot does not cause the flu and you cannot get COVID-19 from any of the COVID vaccines. Yes, both vaccines have potentials side effects, but the disease they are meant to prevent is far worse. Everyone who is eligible for the vaccines should discuss their situation and health status with their primary care provider (PCP) and make an informed decision.
A lot has changed about COVID-19 and continues to change as we learn more. We recommend checking with the CDC frequently to stay on top of the most current information.
One thing remaining consistent is the recommendation for everyone eligible to get their annual flu shot. At some point soon, these vaccines may both be available in the same shot. In the meantime, educate (learn as much as you can), communicate (speak with your PCP) and vaccinate (protect yourself and those around you). If you have questions about preparing for the upcoming flu season or if we can help in any way, please contact us.
The Consultant Pharmacists at OctariusRx provide guidance on safe medication management, survey readiness and cost savings to ambulatory healthcare facilities/surgery centers, senior care facilities and pharmacies. We also help individual patients optimize their medications to improve their quality of life and save money. Contact us for assistance.