With flu season approaching, as well as the prospect of another surge in Covid cases this fall, many Americans are wondering about two things: when is the best time to get a flu vaccine – if any – and Is it okay to double that and get both the seasonal flu vaccine and the new Omicron-specific COVID-19 booster at the same time?
Although CDC While it is perfectly fine to get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 shot together, the US says there is no specific guidance regarding the newly designed boosters.
However, pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS Vaccines are being offered as a packaged deal, and people have started getting immunized with both shots at the same time.
But not all public health experts agree that this is not the best approach, especially given the average flu shot timeline that the US has followed prior to the pandemic, said Dr., a virologist and associate professor at Rockefeller University. Professor Theodora Hatziano says.
“For the average person, it’s probably better to have it a little later,” Hatzioannau says, “I’m definitely waiting.”
When you get your flu shot should be aligned with the time frame that will allow you the best antibody response during the start of flu season, Hatziioannou tells CNBC Make It.
It’s important to look at data from recent years before the pandemic in your local area to determine when cases have historically started to rise in your community, says Hatziioannou.
The standard rule of thumb is to get your vaccinations four weeks before the start of flu season to get the most protection because that’s when you’ll have the best antibody response, she notes.
“In New York and many other areas with the same geographic latitude, flu season usually begins in December and lasts through March,” she says, “so, if you have [the flu shot] now, at the end of September or [early] October, your peak antibody responses will be in November. It’s a little early.”
At this time, Hatziioannou recommends getting your flu shot in late October or early November for the highest protection throughout December.
And the protection provided by the vaccine generally diminishes over time, so if you get the vaccine too early, you may have fewer antibodies at the end of flu season, she says.
“One thing I would say is that this year I will definitely get both shots because the combination can be quite bad,” says Hatzioannau.
“You don’t want to get the flu while COVID is rolling around, and you don’t want to get SARS-CoV-2 while the flu is going around. I can imagine a double whammy would be really terrifying.”
There are no specific reasons why you can’t get your flu vaccine as well as your Omicron booster, says Mark Conroy, MD, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“In terms of side effects from the Omicron-specific vaccine and the flu shot, there haven’t been any studies specifically looking at the two of them together,” Conroy says, “but there were some studies looking at prior boosters with flu. shots, and there really was no negative effect related to having both shots at the same time.”
And if you’re worried about not finding availability to get a flu shot later in the year, Conroy encourages you to get a double appointment.
“If you don’t get them at the same time, what’s the biggest risk? And the risk is later forgetting to get the flu shot,” he says, “if you have the chance, obviously don’t get vaccinated.” But get vaccinated.”
But, if you can wait for your flu shot, he recommends doing so from mid to late October or early November, as Hatzioanau suggested.
“From the point of view of the Omicron booster, my recommendation is that people should get it as soon as possible. Covid is substantial and is making people sick,” he says, “September is a little early for the flu shot. I usually I recommend getting it a little later in the fall.”