What’s the safest COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine spacing per the CDC? Here’s what experts say about those and other shots.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, everyone has been looking forward to post-coronavirus life. And most people agree that to get there, we need to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and protect ourselves. From the implementation of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) emergency use authorization of a smaller dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for kids to an influx of public service announcements about scheduling your annual flu shot, vaccines are getting lots of airtime lately. It can be tempting to kill several birds (or viruses) with one stone (or doctor’s appointment), but what’s the ideal COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine spacing per the CDC?
Whether you’re fully vaccinated and looking at the prospect of a booster shot coinciding with your flu jab or you’re getting the COVID-19 vaccine for the first time, here’s what you need to know.
Can you get multiple vaccines at once?
The technical term for getting multiple vaccines together is “vaccine coadministration.” And the answer to whether this is a good idea depends largely on your age and health status, the vaccines you’re considering, how urgent the need is to start building up protection against said threat or threats, and personal preferences, experts say.
As a general rule, there are very few vaccines that can’t be coadministered, says L.J. Tan, MS, PhD, the chief policy and partnership officer at the Immunization Action Coalition in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Vaccines commonly administered together include DTaP and Tdap, which protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (aka whooping cough), and MMR, which prevents measles, mumps, and rubella.
When vaccines are coadministered, they should go in different locations or anatomical sites, according to Dr. Tan. “It can be in the same arm if they are spaced an inch apart,” he says. This allows your doctor or pharmacist to identify which vaccine caused a reaction, should one occur.
Here, experts break down which vaccines can be given at the same time and which ones can’t. Plus, find out why you still need to wear a mask indoors if you’re vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine spacing per the CDC
When COVID-19 vaccines were first rolling out in the United States, the CDC recommended waiting two weeks between the shots and other immunizations as a precaution, but the agency has changed course and now says you can do both at once.
“There were some concerns early on, given the newness of the COVID-19 vaccines, but now we know that it is safe to get both at the same time,” says Mohammad Sobhanie, MD, an infectious disease expert at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
We’re approaching flu season and still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which means protection against both of these viruses is essential, says Len Horovitz, MD, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
What about kids?
The FDA has authorized the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Now, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices must make a recommendation on its use, which then must be approved by the CDC director.
Once it is officially green-lit, kids can get the COVID-19 and flu shot in the same visit, Dr. Tan says. “Many kids have already received the flu vaccine,” he says.
Hepatitis A vaccine and flu vaccine
Other inactivated and/or live virus vaccines, such as the flu shot, can be given at the same time as the hepatitis A vaccine, which helps prevent the highly contagious liver infection.
The CDC recommends hepatitis A shots for children ages 12 to 23 months, children and adolescents ages 2 to 18 years who have not already received hepatitis A vaccines, and people at increased risk for hepatitis A or severe disease from hepatitis A infection.
Pregnant women at risk for hepatitis A or for severe outcomes from hepatitis A infection should consider vaccination, the CDC states. Risk for hepatitis A increases with international travel, illicit drug use, and homelessness. Men who have sex with other men are also at an increased risk for hepatitis A.
Pneumonia vaccine and flu vaccine
You can administer either pneumonia vaccine (PCV13 or PPSV23) and the flu shot during the same visit, Dr. Horovitz says.
In general, the CDC recommends pneumonia vaccines for young kids, older adults, and certain at-risk people. Pneumovax (PPSV23) protects against 23 common types of pneumococcus, and Prevnar (PCV13) protects against 13 types.
Shingles vaccine and pneumonia (or any other) vaccine
Dr. Horovitz isn’t a fan of combining a shingles shot with any other type of vaccine. “Ten percent of people will be really sick from a shingles shot, and their arm will really hurt, so I don’t like to layer shingles vaccines,” he says.
Shingles, a painful rash caused by a reactivation of the chicken pox virus, is preventable. The CDC recommends that Everyone over 50 get two doses of the shingles vaccine.
Pneumonia vaccine (PCV13) and meningococcal conjugate vaccine
You can’t give the PCV13 pneumonia shot with a meningococcal conjugate vaccine, as they may interfere with your body’s immunologic response to PCV13, the CDC warns.
There are two meningitis vaccines available in the United States: meningococcal conjugate and MenACWY. There’s also a vaccine against meningitis B. All 11- and 12-year-olds should get a MenACWY vaccine, with a booster dose at age 16.
Both pneumonia vaccines: PCV13 and PPSV23
You shouldn’t double up on pneumonia vaccines. Some people will need to get both pneumonia shots for protection against all strains of this lung infection, but not during the same visit, the CDC cautions. Instead, schedule vaccine appointments for different days.
COVID-19 booster, flu, and pneumonia vaccines
If you are coming in for your third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (the “booster”) and haven’t had your flu or pneumonia shots yet, you can get them all at the same time.
“Get the more reactive one [the COVID-19 shot] in one arm and the flu and pneumonia vaccines spaced an inch on the other arm,” Dr. Tan says. “Yes, both arms may hurt, but this is a small price to pay for protection against three deadly diseases.”
Mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines
This is different from getting multiple vaccines in the same sitting. “If you are in a location and can get your third shot or COVID-19 booster, and the type you received for your first two shots in the series is not available, it’s reasonable to receive the other type as a booster,” Dr. Sobhanie says.
This only applies to the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, however.
The bottom line
Keep copious records of all the vaccines you receive, along with dates, to make sure you stay on top of your medical records and ahead of these preventable diseases, Dr. Horovitz says. Once you understand the best COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine spacing per the CDC, find out the places you’re most likely to catch COVID-19.