With flu season just around the corner, 13News VERIFY is receiving a lot of questions about flu shots. Some viewers are wondering if a flu shot is still recommended if they have already received a COVID-19 vaccine. Others say they are confused after reading conflicting information online about whether they should get a flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.
“I heard you have to wait at least two weeks between the shots. Is that true or can I get both at the same time?” asked 13News viewer Wanda.
Physicians say the answers to these questions are very important to help prevent an additional surge of hospital patients in local emergency rooms and intensive care units, which are already bursting due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Do you have to wait 14 days between getting a flu vaccine and a coronavirus vaccine?
- Dr. Christopher Belcher, Ascension St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital infection prevention medical director
- Dr. Robin Lenyard, Community Health Network chief medical officer
- David Crabb, Eskenazi Health chief medical officer
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control
- Indiana Department of Health
No, you do not have to wait 14 days between a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot. That used to be the CDC’s recommendation while the agency was studying COVID vaccines for side effects and trying to determine if the vaccines would trigger any negative interactions with one another.
The CDC, along with state health departments and local physicians, have since updated their guidance to state it is safe to receive both vaccines at the same time.
WHAT WE FOUND
First, let’s address whether you should get a flu shot at all.
Whether you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine or not, the health care experts contacted by 13News are all unanimous in their answers.
“For sure we want people to get it,” said Dr. David Crabb, chief medical officer at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. “We recommend the flu vaccine every year.”
“We are absolutely recommending to still get the flu vaccine,” added Dr. Robin Ledyard, Community Health Network's chief medical officer.
And Dr. Chrsitopher Belcher, Ascension St. Vincent’s infection prevention medical director, also agrees.
“Absolutely. Yes, you want both your COVID vaccine and your influenza vaccine. Different viruses. Different illnesses, although they’re both respiratory illnesses. Very important to get both vaccines this year,” he told 13News.
Belcher said getting a flu vaccine to increase your chances of staying out of the hospital is even more important this year because emergency rooms and ICUs are already full of coronavirus patients.
So, what about the timing of the flu vaccine: Do you need to space it apart from a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot?
Earlier this week, the Indiana Department of Health’s website said this:
“The COVID-19 vaccine and influenza vaccine should not be given at the same time. The COVID-19 vaccine and influenza vaccine should be spaced 14 days apart.”
It is important to note: THAT THIS IS OUTDATED INFORMATION based on old advice from the CDC.
“The reason for that original guidance was to make sure they were detecting side effects from one of [the vaccines] and not both of them,” explained Crabb. “Earlier this summer, that recommendation went away.”
The federal agency now recommends, “You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines at the same visit. You no longer need to wait 14 days between vaccinations.”
The CDC’s website also says: “Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, after getting vaccinated and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.”
After 13News VERIFY told the state health department about the CDC’s updated position, the ISDH quickly changed its recommendation to match the CDC. (The health department’s website now states, “The COVID-19 vaccine can be given at the same time as any other routine vaccine, including seasonal flu shots.”)
Local doctors agree with that advice.
“I would recommend going ahead and giving both at the same time,” said Ledyard, adding that Community Health Network will be having flu vaccination clinics this fall that will offer coronavirus vaccines at the same time.
“When the COVID vaccines first came out there was a two-week interval, but that was then found to be not necessary. It was safe, and so they can be co-administered. So, get them done. Make it easy on yourself,” Belcher said.
As far as the ideal time to get a flu shot, the doctors say September and October are the ideal months to ensure you get optimal protection.