A spike in flu cases across the country, along with another COVID-19 surge, is leaving more people vulnerable to catching some form of disease—especially those who aren’t vaccinated.
And although the flu is most common during the fall and winter, people remain susceptible to influenza year round, including in June.
Are flu cases up?
While the flu typically stops circulating around late April, the U.S. is “technically still in flu season” this year, said Dr. Natacsha Tuznik, associate professor of infectious diseases at UC Davis.
In fact, the flu is experiencing “increased activity” in some parts of the country, such as in Nevada and New Mexico, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There is no clear cut reason as to why this is the case, she said.
“In the last two weeks, it has started to slow down, but we are definitely seeing an extended length of influenza infections and later spikes than we have in the previous years,” Tuznik said.
People traveling internationally, she said, are especially susceptible to catching the flu. Tuznik strongly recommends patients with travel plans abroad to get a flu shot.
Can I get my COVID booster and flu shot at the same time?
An uptick in COVID-19 cases and increased eligibility for the booster shot has led some people to consider receiving additional doses. The FDA authorized a second booster in late March for adults 50 or older and immunocompromised individuals ages 12 and over, and the Pfizer booster in May for healthy children ages 5 to 11.
It is “absolutely okay” for people to get their flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time.
“There are no recommendations on any sort of interval period,” Tuznik said.
Although there is no medical reason to not receive both vaccines in the same visit, people who react strongly to the COVID vaccine or flu shot may want to wait a few days in between, she said.
Most people who have gotten vaccinated for COVID-19 are aware of the symptoms they’ve experienced in the past and should keep them in mind before getting boosted, the medical doctor advised.
Some people have reported more robust symptoms to COVID vaccines, experiencing high fevers and soreness that may leave them incapacitated for a few days.
“If patients know they’re going to have a stronger response to the COVID booster, then I maybe wouldn’t get them at the same time and wait until their symptoms from the booster have waned or gone away…” she said.
People who receive the flu shot can anticipate soreness around the injection site and may experience flu-like symptoms including a low-grade fever, sore muscles and runny nose.
However, the injectable version of the flu shot does not give people the flu, Tuznik said.
“If they’ve historically had a reaction to the influenza vaccine, they may just want to get it, wait for those symptoms to transpire and then proceed with the COVID vaccination,” she said.
Which to get first?
In short, it depends on the patient to determine which vaccine to get first, Tuznik said.
People should assess what risk factors they may have for each, and they tend to overlap.
“A lot of the risk factors that are out there for COVID also apply to risk factors for getting influenza,” Tuznik said.
She recommends people get vaccinated against both diseases to protect themselves from illness, including the COVID-19 booster and its additional doses if eligible.
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