Q: Can I get a COVID-19 and flu vaccine simultaneously?

Q:           Can I get a COVID-19 and flu vaccine simultaneously?

Yes, with two exceptions. The nasal spray vaccine Flumist® contains live virus, so you should wait 2 weeks between getting COVID and Flumist® vaccinations.

Getting a flu shot helps protect you from some of the severe effects of COVID-19 infection, like stroke, blood clots, and severe infections.

It is unknown if there are any increased side effects when getting 2 vaccines with adjuvants simultaneously, like Fluad® and Shingrix, the newer shingles vaccine.

Q:           When is the best time to get a flu shot?

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated by the end of October. However, you can get vaccinated at any time during the flu season.

Young children aged 6 months through 8 years getting the flu vaccine for the first time should get 2 doses. The first dose should be given as soon as the vaccine is available, and the second one  4 weeks later.

Q:           How long does it take to be protected against the flu after getting vaccinated?

It takes about 2 weeks for a flu shot to become fully effective.

Q:           Will a flu shot last you the entire flu season?

Your best protection from the influenza vaccine lasts for about 6 months and decreases to 50% by 12 months. If you are young and healthy, one vaccination provides protection for the entire flu season. 

As we age, we get a less powerful response to vaccines. There are 2 flu vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designed to boost their effectiveness in seniors.

Q:           Why do we need yearly vaccinations against influenza?

The influenza virus frequently mutates, making your antibodies against influenza less effective.

As the influenza virus reproduces itself, it occasionally makes mistakes. Sometimes the influenza virus will combine with another flu strain, creating a new one. If that new strain is more successful at causing infection than a previous one, it will eventually replace it. If the new strain changes enough, we become more susceptible to it. It will be considered for inclusion in the next flu vaccine.

Q:           Is this year’s flu vaccine the same as last year's?

No. Most human influenza is caused by one of two main types, an A strain or a B strain. Influenza A strains are associated with pandemics and cause more severe symptoms and deaths than B strains.

The World Health Organization (WHO) keeps track of influenza patterns worldwide with facilities in Tokyo, Beijing, Melbourne, London, and Atlanta. They meet each February to decide on the 4 strains best suited for the next influenza vaccine, choosing two A and two B strains.

All of the influenza vaccines available in the United States are quadrivalent, with two “A” strains and two “B” strains.

Last year’s flu vaccine replaced one A strain. This year’s vaccine formulation has 2 updates: one A strain and one B strain are new.   

Q:           My pharmacy is advertising the “high dose” flu shot. Should I get that one instead of the regular formula?

Older adults have weaker immune systems and may get only half of the protection of influenza vaccines compared to younger people.

The FDA approved two influenza vaccine formulations designed for people 65 years and older to combat this. One is a "high dose" vaccine containing 4 times the concentration in standard formulations.

The other formulation contains MF59, an additive called an Adjuvant. Adjuvants are compounds added to vaccines to trigger a more robust immune response. 

One trial showed these enhanced formulas boosted effectiveness by 24% compared to a standard influenza vaccine formulation.

Recent evidence shows that older adults getting an over 65 flu vaccine formula get better protection than a standard influenza vaccine. Are you over 65 years of age? If you are, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you get vaccinated with one of the flu vaccines designed for adults over 65. 

Q:  What about the “nose spray” flu vaccine?

FluMist® Quadrivalent is a nasal influenza vaccine approved for people from 2 to 49 years old. FluMist® contains a live influenza virus and should be AVOIDED by pregnant women, people taking immunosuppressant medication, and anyone taking an antiviral drug within the previous 48 hours.

Q:           What if you are pregnant?

Pregnancy causes changes in your immune system and other organs in the body, making you more likely to suffer severe illnesses from having influenza. Vaccination against flu can reduce the risk of a pregnant woman hospitalized with flu by about 40 percent.

Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy, is a 43-year veteran of pharmacology and the author of Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely. Get clear answers to your medication questions at her website and blog, TheMedicationInsider.com.

Ó2022 Louise Achey

 

 

 

 

 

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