While the CDC says it’s completely fine to get a flu shot and the Covid-19 shot at the same time, there hasn’t been specific guidance related to the newly formulated booster.
However, pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS they offer the vaccines as a package, and people have already started getting both vaccines at the same time.
But not all public health experts believe that’s the best approach, especially given the average flu vaccination schedule the U.S. has followed since before the pandemic, says virologist and associate professor Theodora Hatziioannou from Rockefeller University.
“For the average person, probably having it a little later would be better,” says Hatziioannou, “I’m definitely waiting.”
‘When should I get the flu shot?’
Hatziioannou tells CNBC Make It that the time you get your flu shot should be aligned with the time frame that would allow you to have the best antibody response during the start of flu season.
It’s important to look at data from past years, before the pandemic, in your local area to determine when historically cases start to rise in your community, Hatziioannou says.
The standard rule of thumb is to get vaccinated four weeks before flu season starts for maximum protection, because that’s when you’ll have the best antibody response, he notes.
“In New York and several other areas at the same geographic latitude, flu season usually starts in December and lasts until March,” he says, “So if you have it. [the flu shot] now, at the end of September or [early] October, your peak antibody responses will be in November. It’s a little too early.”
At this time, Hatziioannou recommends getting a flu shot in late October or early November for maximum protection throughout December.
And the protection provided by the vaccine generally wanes over time, so if you get the shot too soon, you could have fewer antibodies at the end of the flu season, he says.
“The only thing I would say is that this year I would definitely get both times because the combination could be pretty nasty,” Hatziioannou says.
“You don’t want to get the flu while Covid is going on, and you don’t want to get SARS-CoV-2 while the flu is going on. I can imagine that a double whammy would be really terrible.”
“Should I get the omicron booster and the flu shot at the same time?”
There’s no specific reason why you can’t get the omicron booster at the same time as the flu shot, says Mark Conroy, an emergency physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
“In terms of the side effects of the omicron-specific vaccine and the flu vaccine, there haven’t been any studies specifically looking at those two together,” says Conroy, “but there have been some studies of the previous booster with the flu shot, and there really wasn’t any negative effect associated with having both shots at the same time.”
And if you’re worried about not being able to find availability later in the year to get your flu shot, 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 simply forgetting to get your flu shot later,” he says, “if you get the chance, obviously get your shot for don’t vaccinate yourself.”
But if you can wait for the flu shot, he recommends doing so until mid-to-late October or early November, as Hatziioannou suggested.
“From an omicron booster point of view, my recommendation is that people should get it as soon as possible. Covid is enough and it makes people sick,” he says, “September is a bit early for to the flu shot. I generally recommend getting it a little later in the fall.”
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