Updated Dec. 3, 2021
Have you had your flu shot yet? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over 6 months get a flu shot every season with rare exceptions.
Now amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it's important to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu. And you can get both shots at the same time.
"In most places, flu starts circulating by November, December. So it's recommended that everyone complete their flu vaccine by October," says Priya Sampathkumar, M.D., a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, communities are on the verge of another flu season. This year, it's more important than ever to be vaccinated for influenza as soon as possible.
"It's possible that the viruses that cause COVID-19 and the flu may spread in your community at the same time during flu season," says Emily Majerus, a physician assistant in Family Medicine in Austin, Minnesota, and the mobile health clinic. "If this happens, people could become ill with COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. Getting vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu can reduce their spread."
Flu cases were low in 2020. And health experts attribute that to the COVID-19 pandemic and the preventive measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
"We're afraid that with in a lot of places masking recommendations being relaxed that flu will spread more easily. And the fact that no one had flu last year means there's a lot more people who are vulnerable this year," says Dr. Sampathkumar.
Flu and COVID-19 are caused by respiratory viruses and have similar symptoms.
"It's very, very hard — almost impossible — to distinguish the two just based on symptoms, says Dr. Sampathkumar. “Some cases of COVID can be very mild and present exactly like the flu. Some cases of flu can be very severe and present like COVID. So really, the only way to know for sure when you have a respiratory illness is to get tested."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccinations for all adults. Mayo Clinic strongly recommends that all adults receive a COVID-19 booster vaccination as soon as possible if they are at least six months past their initial Moderna or Pfizer vaccination series, or at least two months past their initial Johnson & Johnson vaccination.
And if you haven't been vaccinated for COVID-19 yet, or need a third or booster vaccination, you can get vaccinated for flu and COVID-19 at the same time.
"The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccine six months after your completion of the initial vaccination series," says Emily. "And if you haven't been vaccinated for COVID-19 yet or need a third dose or a booster, you can get your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time."
Watch this video with a COVID-19 update for long-term care facilities, including the delta variant, benefits of COVID-19 vaccines, concerns people may have about vaccine and preventive measures that can be taken to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities:
By Mayo Clinic Health System staff