Local health experts say it’s safe to get both the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine in same appointment

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Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 8:43 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Ready or not — it’s flu season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The words seem kind of foreign, considering we barely felt the effects of the flu last year, but experts say already this year is different.

With more people back to some semblance of normal due to the widespread availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, the flu could rear its ugly head this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially recommended spacing your COVID-19 vaccine or booster 14 days from another vaccination, like the flu shot.

But now, the CDC has updated those guidelines to say it is safe and effective to get the shots together in the same visit.

“Initially there was a discussion to space them apart because nobody had good data,” said Dr. Helmut Albrecht, an infectious diseases physician with Prisma Heath. “But it’s not only effective,  by combining them you do not lose the effect of either vaccine.”

A preprint study from University Hospitals Bristol showed 340 participants had no health concerns after getting both vaccines simultaneously.

“It is perfectly safe to get the COVID vaccine the same time as the flu vaccine,” said SCDHEC Director of Public Health, Dr. Brannon Traxler.

The overarching message from experts we spoke is that the time is now to roll up both sleeves.

“There’s no evidence that there’s an increase in side effects by doing the two together and there’s no evidence that there’s a decrease in efficacy,” said pediatrician Dr. Deborah Greenhouse.

Dr. Greenhouse said this could be especially convenient for kids.

“Frankly, the child is only getting stuck on one occasion,” she said. “They get both shots at once and they don’t have to worry about the one that’s coming up.”

All three experts agree: there is no evidence to show that getting both the flu shot and the COVID vaccine at the same time produce additional or extra side effects. If anything, they said, it minimizes the number of days you might have side effects from two to one. They are urging vaccination as we walk straight into flu season.

“The flu season has started and we are seeing the first cases,” said Dr. Albrecht.

Between Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, SCDHEC reported 41 confirmed flu tests. There were roughly 3700 COVID-19 cases in that same week. The numbers might seem disproportional right now, but Dr. Albrecht said we could see those flu cases begin to go up. All of that – while the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to affect unvaccinated populations.

With all that to consider, Dr. Traxler said it comes down to making one appointment versus two.

“I’m a big believer in convenience, so certainly let’s kill two birds with one stone,” Traxler said.

You can find the vaccine locator on DHEC’s website here.

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