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Flu and COVID vaccines with Dr. Sarah Khan
Flu season is here and COVID is still circulating. Our associate medical director of infection control, Dr. Sarah Khan answers questions about the flu and COVID vaccines.
November 3, 2022

Flu and COVID vaccine FAQ

We are anticipating a challenging flu season this year based on Australian data. With COVID still circulating, the viral season is adding 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 and boosters.

Please visit the Hamilton Public Health website to find flu shot and COVID vaccine locations near you.

 

Can I get both vaccines at the same time?

For people five years of age or older, both the COVID vaccine and influenza vaccine can be given at the same time. There’s no concern about increased side effects from both vaccines nor are there any concerns about them not working as well. You may get a sore arm from both, but they’re very safe.

For children six months to five years of age, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the Ontario Ministry of Health recommend spacing out the COVID vaccine from other vaccines by two weeks out of an abundance of caution to track side effects more easily.

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. You can access a free rapid antigen test to determine if it’s COVID, however 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. The influenza vaccine is safe and available 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.