Vaccinating For Flu And Covid-19: What Parents Need To Know – Forbes

It’s that time of year when getting the family vaccinated for flu could save everyone from weeks in bed. But with the Covid-19 vaccine about to roll out for kids ages 5 to 11, some parents may be wondering what, if any, precautions they should be taking in getting their kids vaccinated for both.

Questions About Timing

One thing parents have started asking is whether or not flu and Covid-19 vaccines can be given at the same time. And the good news is, yes, they can be!

“The COVID-19 vaccine initial doses or boosters may be given at the same time as the flu vaccine,”  David M. Souleles, Director of COVID-19 Response at University of California, Irvine recently said. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, and possible side effects after getting vaccinated are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.”

The CDC has also been clear that getting vaccinated for the flu this year is perhaps even more important than years prior, specifically because of the danger of getting sick with both the flu and Covid-19 at the same time.

Pediatric Intensivist Kristina Deeter, MD, did point out that at this time, data specific to the combination of the flu and Covid-19 vaccine is limited. But she added, “We have decades of experience giving children and adults multiple vaccines at once.”


And that experience has taught us the immune response will remain roughly the same when given together.

“The initial CDC guidance recommended 14 days between vaccinations, but there has been no data to support waiting,” she said. “The vaccines may be given at any interval if you want to space them.”

Spacing for Comfort

Despite those reassurances, there may be some parents who are still more comfortable spacing these vaccinations out. And that’s okay, so long as you still intend on vaccinating your family for both.

“If you are concerned about taking both vaccines at once, priority should be given to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Deeter said. “However, it is important to get the flu vaccine soon as infections are beginning to occur across the country. Similar to other vaccines, it will take your body about two weeks to develop immunity after the flu vaccine.”

“Both vaccines are important to protecting the health of our children, families, and communities.” Souleles said. “Vaccinating our children against both Covid-19 and flu not only protects our children, but those more vulnerable in our families and communities, such as seniors and those with underlying health conditions.”

As the holiday season approaches, she said this is particularly important because many of us will soon be gathering with family and friends.

“Parents who are concerned and have question should reach out to their health care provider or local vaccine clinic to discuss their concerns.”

The Importance of Both

While experts are recommending prioritizing the Covid-19 vaccine right now, the importance of the flu vaccine cannot be downplayed.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu vaccinations prevent millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year,” Souleles said. “For example, during 2019-2020, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses.”

And while Covid-19 has resulted in more deaths, the flu takes lives every year as well. And the vaccine can prevent that.

“Like the Covid-19 vaccine, flu vaccines have been shown in several studies to reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick,” he explained. “Much like COVID-19 vaccines, flu vaccines may also protect those people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies, young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.”

Both illnesses can knock patients who get them down for weeks, with symptoms that make you, and everyone around you, miserable.

“Symptoms of the flu can be similar to Covid-19 symptoms, and if you receive your flu vaccine and your Covid-19 vaccine, you reduce your chances of becoming sick and needing to be tested for Covid-19 and flu,” Souleles said.

With a mild flu season last year (likely due to how many people were masking and social distancing) there is also reason to be concerned about how severe this year’s flu season may be.

“Natural immunity occurs after exposure to a virus or bacteria,” Deeter explained. “Getting the flu vaccine this year will boost your body’s ability to fight infection as it is predicted that this year, there will be a very high number of cases.”

And of course, no one wants to get sick with both the flu and Covid-19 at the same time, as that double whammy of illness could make for an especially intense and prologued period of symptoms.

“This year’s flu shot has been developed based on the four most likely strains of the flu expected to create serious infections in the United States,” Deeter said. “This includes an updated strain of influenza A H1N1 that has caused very serious infections in the past.”

She does want people to remember that the flu vaccine is never 100 percent effective, as new strains emerge every year. “But it does appear to protect an individual against severe infection and mortality,” she explained. “Also, there are different types of flu vaccine, including a high dose vaccine available for people over age 65. All available vaccines provide protection against the same four targeted flu strains but come in different formulations or are provided through different methods (injection vs. nasal spray, for instance).”

If you’re unsure which vaccine you should get, she recommends talking to your doctor to determine which option might be right for you.  

And for those families anxiously awaiting Covid-19 vaccine availability for their younger kiddos?

“Watch for updates next week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19 vaccination recommendations for children aged 5-11,” Souleles said. “Vaccine availability for this age group could begin as early as next week.”

We may not be out of the danger zone completely just yet, but thanks to vaccines and science, we are certainly several steps closer than we were this time last year.