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Can You Get Your COVID-19 Booster With Your Flu Shot?

What you need to know before rolling up your sleeves this fall


spinner image two vaccine vials crossed towards their tips one is meant to show a covid booster and the other a flu shot
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September and October are big months not only for flu shots but also for COVID-19 boosters.

The coronavirus vaccines were updated last fall to better match the variants circulating at the time, and this year is no different. Vaccine manufactures are reformulating the shots to match recent versions of the ever-evolving virus, and experts expect them to be ready in early autumn.

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So you may be wondering: Is it OK to get your flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same time?

Absolutely, health experts say. In fact, many doctors plan to encourage Americans to get both at once.

“It’s two for the price of one,” says Ranit Mishori, M.D., a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “Get one in each arm. It’s an efficient and effective way to make sure you’re protected.”

Both diseases are especially dangerous for older adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 50 and 70 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occur among adults 65 and older and between 70 and 85 percent of flu deaths occur among people in this age group. What’s more, the vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 have happened to adults 50 and older.

So will your side effects be worse?

It’s possible.

A study published in JAMA Network Open in July 2022 found that people who got both vaccines at once were more likely to report experiencing temporary and generally mild side effects than those who just had the COVID-19 booster. It’s important to note that like previous studies, this study did not find any safety concerns with what’s called coadministration.

The side effects from both vaccines are similar, with injection pain, fatigue, headache, chills and muscle aches being among the most common.

“Just take into consideration that if you’re one of these people who often has side effects to being vaccinated, they may increase if you [get] two different vaccines” at the same time, Mishori says.

Another tip if you get double jabbed: Don’t make any big plans for a few days after your appointment, Mishori advises.

Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help you feel better. Remember, she says, side effects are temporary and a sign the vaccines are working.

It’s also OK to space them out

If you are concerned about side effects from two shots at once, it’s perfectly fine to space out your COVID-19 booster and other vaccines — just don’t forget to go back for the one you delayed. Experts say that catching either illness is far worse than any potential risk in increased side effects.

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The CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu shot by the end of October — older adults should ask for the high-dose version for greater protection. It’s expected that health officials will make recommendations, including guidance on timing, for the new COVID boosters once they are available.

Video: Is It Safe to Get Three Vaccines at Once?

Two shots at once? What about three, or four?

You may remember that there’s a new vaccine available to adults 60 and older this year: one for RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, which like COVID-19 and influenza has a fall-winter seasonal pattern to it.

This year at least, you may want to get your RSV vaccine on its own, says William Schaffner, M.D., who is with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and is a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

In studies, the influenza antibody response was better when the flu and RSV vaccines were given separately, Schaffner says, though more information on RSV vaccine coadministration is expected soon.

Due for some other vaccines around the same time as your flu and COVID shots? If they’re not time-sensitive the way the COVID-19 and influenza shots are, Mishori says she sometimes recommends that patients space them out, especially if the other vaccine is known for its side effects, like the shingles vaccine is.

“I tell my patients, ‘You don’t want to get the shingles and COVID vaccine at the same time because you’re going to feel really, really miserable,” she says. Shingles vaccine side effects may include fatigue, headache, muscle pain and nausea.

However, Mishori says convenience is a big consideration. “I'll ask, ‘How disruptive is it going to be for your life? Can you get time off if you work to come back in? If not, go ahead and get it today.’”

Editor’s note: This story, first published Sept. 10, 2021, has been updated to reflect new information.

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