Flu and COVID vaccine FAQ
We are anticipating a challenging viral season with not only the flu, but COVID as well. This will add further strain to our health-care system that is already burdened by staffing and capacity pressures. This is why it’s important to get a flu shot and to stay up to date with COVID vaccines.
Dr. Sarah Khan, associate medical director of infection control at Hamilton Health Sciences, provides some insight into getting the flu and COVID vaccines during viral season.
Can I get both vaccines at the same time?
Yes, you can get the COVID and influenza vaccine at the same time. And it’s recommended to do so as there is no evidence to date of safety concerns. In addition, having vaccines done at the same time can help reduce barriers to ensuring the COVID, influenza and routine childhood immunizations are all up-to-date.
If more than one vaccine is administered at a single visit, they should be done at different injection sites using separate injection equipment. Preferably this is in different limbs, however if the same limb must be used, the injection sites should be separated by at least 2.5cm.
Does the vaccine for one virus protect against the other virus?
COVID-19 and influenza are two very different respiratory viruses. Each vaccine was developed against the specific virus they target. Therefore, the COVID vaccine will not protect against influenza and the influenza vaccine will not protect against COVID. We recommend that you be vaccinated against both viruses to protect you, your family, and your community.
How do I know if I have the flu or COVID?
Symptoms of COVID and influenza are very similar: fever, headache, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches. So based on symptoms alone you cannot differentiate the flu from COVID and sometimes even from other respiratory viruses. We also see respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory viruses with similar symptoms. Anyone with these symptoms would be advised to stay at home to prevent the spread of any of these circulating viruses.
Should I vaccinate my child?
Since children are very prone to influenza and often the source for adults, particularly older people around them, we do recommend they get vaccinated. Although rare, there can be serious consequences of influenza in children. For this reason, it’s especially important that children at high risk for severe illness from either influenza or COVID be vaccinated against both. Both vaccines are considered safe, effective and free for anyone over the age of six months.
Is the flu shot safe for people who are pregnant?
Pregnant people are more at risk of severe complications from both influenza and COVID. If there’s one thing that pregnant people can do to both safeguard their own health as well as the health of their newborn baby, it is to be vaccinated against both of these quite serious respiratory viruses.
The vaccine is safe in pregnancy. Particularly with influenza, if a person has been immunized, the likelihood of their newborn baby getting influenza in the first six months of life is reduced. And of course influenza in a young infant can be a very serious illness as well.
As the flu season approaches, it is vital that we protect ourselves, our families, and our community from influenza as well as COVID. The best way to do that is to make sure that you’ve had your vaccine and encourage vaccination in others.