There's been virtually no flu season since the early stages of the pandemic in spring 2020, which experts have generally credited to the mitigation measures taken by public health authorities and individual behavioral changes in response to COVID.
While the COVID pandemic has continued to see severe flare-ups, those mitigation measures and behavioral changes, such as masking and social distancing, appear to have been highly effective against the less transmissible flu.
But medical experts are concerned that this year will see a brutal return of the flu, driven by factors including less rigid adherence to masking or social distancing and a decline in natural immunity against the flu virus, given how few people have gotten it in the last year-and-a-half.
That's why doctors are urging everyone to get a flu shot - you might feel protected right now against COVID if you've been vaccinated, but that shot won't do anything against the flu.
Can I get the flu shot and COVID vaccine at the same time?
- The CDC
- 11Alive Medical Correspondent Dr. Sujatha Reddy
You can, according to the CDC.
WHAT WE KNOW
When the vaccines first became available, people were initially advised to wait a little while between getting a COVID vaccination and flu shot, according to 11Alive Medical Correspondent Dr. Sujatha Reddy.
"This was a new thing we were doing," she explained. "So, it was safer to wait between COVID vaccine and any other vaccine you were getting."
Since then, millions of people have been vaccinated against COVID and medical experts have been able to observe the effects of vaccination efforts.
"Fast forward 9-10 months, and we now realize it is actually safe to get the COVID vaccine with the flu vaccine, so you can get them the same day," she said.
The CDC backs this up, stating on a flu vaccine FAQ page: "If a patient is eligible, both influenza and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same visit, without regard to timing as recommended by CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices (ACIP). If a patient is due for both vaccines, providers are encouraged to offer both vaccines at the same visit."
The CDC adds that getting both shots at one time "increases the probability that people will be fully vaccinated" because in general, many people are less likely to return for a second appointment.
This would apply to people either getting the vaccine for the first time or those getting a third booster shot.
Dr. Reddy does note that if you get them at the same time, it's best to do one on each arm, "to decrease the discomfort."
And the CDC advises people actively ill with COVID to wait until they're not sick anymore to get a flu vaccine, though that has nothing to do with how the vaccine will affect you. As the CDC notes, it is "to avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients" to COVID while you get your shot.
Dr. Reddy also adds that, as with the COVID vaccine, there will be a range of reactions that could cause a range of symptoms, though "usually very mild - you might get a little bit of soreness or maybe a headache."
She stresses the benefits of getting a flu vaccine this year include keeping you out of the hospital at a time when they're severely strained with COVID patients, and avoiding what would be a rare, and alarming, double dose of COVID and flu at the same time.
"I actually just got my flu vaccine, this morning. So, happy to tell you it's out there, I would recommend going to get it," Dr. Reddy said. "And yes you can get the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine at the same time, same day."