Can You Get a Flu Shot and a COVID Vaccine at the Same Time?

An unseen person wearing a face mask with whales on it; they have a band aid on her arm where she got a shot.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Unsplash

Key Takeaways

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released its annual influenza vaccine guidelines.
  • According to the CDC, it’s safe to get your flu shot and a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on the same day. In fact, the CDC is advising that people get a COVID dose (or booster, if eligible) at the same time that they get their flu shot.
  • Many pharmacies and doctor’s offices will have both vaccines on hand throughout the fall and winter, and people will be able to schedule an appointment to get both shots on the same day.

On August 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its guidelines for the 2020/2021 flu season. Included in the guidance are recommendations for influenza vaccination, as well as COVID-19 vaccines.

This year, the CDC is recommending that people who have not yet received their first or second COVID shot—as well as those who are eligible for a third-dose booster—get the shot on the same day that they get their flu shot.

The CDC advises getting your flu vaccine by the end of October to make sure that you are ready for flu season which starts in the fall and lasts until spring. In the United States, flu season usually peaks in January or February.

Is It Safe to Get Both Shots at Once?

According to the CDC, current guidance has shown that COVID-19 vaccines “can be coadministered with other vaccines, including influenza vaccines.”

Lisa Grohskopf, MD, MPH, a medical officer in the influenza division at CDC, tells Verywell that “while we’ve said recently when asked that it’s safe to get both vaccines, this is the first published notice.”

The CDC’s recommendation to give both shots at the same vaccine appointment is an update to previous guidance, which stated that people should wait 14 days between the COVID-19 and other vaccines.

According to the CDC, the guidance changed because “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.”

The Importance of Getting Both Vaccines

Andrew Pavia, MD, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah Health and a spokesperson at the Infectious Diseases Society of America, tells Verywell that with flu season on its way and about 90 million Americans still unvaccinated against COVID-19, “the new guidance is important because it can increase the chance that someone coming in for one of the vaccines who also needs the other, will get it.”

Infectious disease experts like Pavia worry that the few flu cases that were reported last year—likely because of masking, social distancing, and changes in reporting—might lead people to believe that they do not need flu shots for the 2021-2022 season. That’s far from the case, however.

“We just don’t know what the flu season will be like this year,” says Pavia. “And you could be risking severe illness or death, especially if you get COVID-19 at the same time, so we really need people to get both vaccines.”

Getting Scheduled

If you’re going to get both vaccines at your doctor’s office, you should be able to let them know your preference when you call for an appointment. If you’re going to go elsewhere—such as a vaccine clinic or a pharmacy—you’ll need to find out how these locations are setting up appointments.

Sara Roszak, DrPH, MPH, senior vice president of Health and Wellness Strategy and Policy at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, says that some chain pharmacies have online vaccine scheduling that gives you the option to schedule both vaccines (if needed) for the same day.

However, some of the schedulers can be cumbersome. If you’re trying to schedule a vaccine online and having difficulty, spokespeople for both CVS and Walgreen’s advise calling your local pharmacy to make your appointment.

What to Expect

The CDC’s guidance states that if you get both shots on the same day, you can expect to have one in each arm to reduce the chance of increased pain at the injection sites. Mild pain where the shots are given, redness, and swelling can be side effects of both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

Grohskopf says that other side effects can include headache, muscle ache, fatigue, and low-grade fever, but that “many people get no side effects from either [vaccine].”

If you’re getting your first dose of one of the two-dose mRNA COVID vaccines when you get your flu shot, make sure that you schedule your appointment for your second dose before you leave.

Priya Nori, MD, assistant professor of infectious disease at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, tells Verywell that you can also have your shots on different days if you’d prefer it. What’s important is that you get vaccinated.

The concern, Nori says, is that “people can’t or won’t return to their provider for the other shot if it’s needed, and delays in getting either vaccine puts you at risk.” With both viruses being serious, “we want to be sure as many people as possible are vaccinated,” she adds.

What About Boosters?

Grohskopf says that authorized third dose “booster” COVID shots (beyond the recent nod for certain immunocompromised people), will also be able to be given along with a flu shot.

On September 22, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for select groups of people.

Lisa Kalajian, PharmD, a district leader for CVS, tells Verywell that when the booster shots are more widely authorized, the chain will be ready to give them and the flu shot on the same day. Other pharmacy chains, like Walgreens and Walmart, have made similar announcements.

What About Kids?

Not everyone who wants a COVID vaccine can currently get one—even if they can get a flu shot. Most people age 6 months and older are eligible for a flu vaccine, but for now, COVID vaccines are limited to people ages 12 and older (however, not all of the COVID vaccines are approved for that age group).

The COVID vaccines are under review for use in younger children, but authorization may not be granted until the end of the year or early next year. 

Will We Ever Have a “2-for-1” Shot?

Pairing flu shots with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a second dose of an mRNA vaccine, or a booster, will make vaccination appointments “one and done” for many people.

In the future, the process could be even more streamlined. As soon as next year, you might be able to get the flu and COVID-19 shots as a single jab—an advancement that will hopefully improve the uptake of both vaccines.

At least one company, Novavax, is working on a combination vaccine. In June, Novavax reported that the vaccine being tested “may be a viable immunization strategy.” While those results were promising, the study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

“These results demonstrate the promising opportunity for [joint] vaccination, which may improve the uptake of both vaccines,” said Gregory M. Glenn, MD, president of research and development at Novavax. 

What This Means For You

As flu season approaches, the CDC is advising people to get their flu shot by the end of October. If you have not yet received all your needed COVID vaccine doses, or if you are eligible for a third “booster” dose, it’s safe to get both vaccines on the same day. To minimize soreness, expect to have one shot in each arm.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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