Flu Shot vs. COVID-19 Booster: Which Should You Prioritize This Flu Season?

Flu season is expected to commence in late September, so everyone is encouraged to get their flu shots as early as this week. However, the FDA is also scheduled to announce its guidance on the rollout of the COVID-19 booster shots in the country in the middle of this month. With this comes the struggle to choose which one to get first between the flu shot and the vaccine booster amid the potential rise of a season that healthcare professionals now refer to as the “twindemic.”

Twindemic: Looking At The Bigger Picture

Experts are currently worried as influenza cases are bound to overlap the rising COVID-19 transmissions once the flu season starts. They have now coined the term “twindemic” to refer to a possible double pandemic.

The phenomenon did not happen last year as mask mandates and restrictions were in place as the world was still working on the COVID-19 vaccines and lockdowns were imposed to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. But the situation is very different this year following the rollout of the vaccines and the easing of the restrictions. 

“The possibility of a ‘twindemic’ is pretty real this year. The situation is much different this year and it leads us to think that we will have at least a normal flu season if not a bad flu season and if we do, it’s going to be problematic for our health care system,” Dr. Brian Dixon, director of Public Health Informatics at the Regenstrief Institute, said. 

Considering the the country’s hospital facilities are currently overburdened by the sudden rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant, it would be more of a disaster when patients with the influenza virus start flocking in. Healthcare systems would also find it challenging to quickly differentiate flu from COVID-19 cases as they tend to manifest similar symptoms. 

Choosing Between The Flu Shot And COVID-19 Booster

Since the best way to avoid catching the flu virus is to get vaccinated every year, the World Health Organization is now urging everyone to get their flu shots, especially those belonging to high-risk groups and people working at the frontlines. 

For those who are also in need of availing the COVID-19 booster shot once it becomes available this month, experts assured that there is nothing to worry if they are also getting the flu shot around the same time. 

Dr. Helmut Albrecht, an infectious disease physician with Prisma Health, said people can take the two shots together because they don’t cancel each other out. He added that for people who do not want to get them back to back, they can prioritize one over the other and just space the jabs by a week or two. 

Albrecht, however, noted that if made to choose which one to get first, he said people should prioritize the COVID-19 booster. Once they have recovered from the immune effects of the dose, they can proceed with getting the flu shot. 

What The CDC Is Saying

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already issued its guidance on this matter. Back in August, the public health agency indicated in its vaccination guidelines that the administration of other vaccines and the COVID-19 shots “may now be administered without regard or timing.”

However, the CDC also pointed out at the time that healthcare personnel should consult with the current influenza vaccine recommendations issued by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for specific vaccines, should they have people coming in asking for their flu shot after getting vaccinated against COVID-19. 

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