- A freshly formulated flu vaccine and an updated Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine are available this fall.
- Some people wonder whether one shot or the other is right for them, but experts say people should generally get both vaccines.
- Influenza and COVID-19 vaccines can be safely administered together.
It is that time of year. There is a cold in the air in many places, and there will soon be dazzling colors.
It is also the time of year when updated influenza vaccinations become available, and this year, the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines against multiple SARS-CoV-2 strains are also being considered.
Every year in February, experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gather to predict which flu strains are most likely to circulate the following fall. Freshly formulated, 2022-2023-specific flu vaccinations are now available.
The two manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines in the USA, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, were also developing a new bivalent booster vaccine that should adapt more easily to constantly changing omicron strains of the COVID-19 causing virus, SARS-CoV-2. Both companies have now received FDA approval for their new vaccines.
Which or both should you get?
We asked three experts to answer a few questions about this fall’s vaccines. Our experts are:
- Dr. William Schaffner from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee
- Dr. Robert Kim-Farley from UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health in Los Angeles, California
- Dr. Amesh Adamla from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore,
Who should get a dual mode COVID-19 booster?
Dr. Farley: “The bivalent Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is intended for people aged 18 and over, while the bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is intended for people aged 12 and over.”
Dr. Schaffner: “The profit is that you are now eligible, and so I would urge people to [get their COVID-19 booster].”
Dr. Adajla: “The people who would benefit the most from an Omicron booster are high-risk people who have never been reinforced before.”
When you’ll get an updated COVID-19 booster
Dr. Adajla: “If you fall into a high-risk category, you shouldn’t wait until you’re empowered.”
Dr. Schaffner pointed out the things you should watch out for before you get a COVID-19 booster:
- Wait at least two months after your last COVID-19 vaccine dose
- If you’ve recently contracted the virus, wait at least three months since you recovered from Omicron
Dr. Schaffner: “Well, there are a few people I think about very carefully. For example, they’ve planned a trip, say, at the beginning of November or the end of October, and they’re planning to receive their updated COVID vaccines two weeks before they travel.
[Whether that makes sense] I think a lot depends on who you are. If you’re younger, stronger and don’t have any underlying medical conditions and your vaccine is otherwise up to date, you may consider this.
If you are elderly, if you are frail with underlying conditions, if you have diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease, if you are immunocompromised in any way, I would urge you to get it now instead of putting it off because there are risks in the community. These Omicron variants are still circulating rapidly across the country.”
Will I also need a flu vaccine this season?
Dr. Schaffner: “The answer is, as they would say in Minnesota: ‘Bet!
And there are several reasons for that. Your COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t protect against influenza, and the opposite is also true: Influenza vaccine doesn’t protect you from COVID-19; they’re two separate viruses.
Influenza — and we may need to remind people of this — is another very serious winter respiratory virus.
As a result, people in the same risk groups — elderly, frail illnesses, immunocompromised diseases — are at increased risk of influenza complications: pneumonia, hospital stay and death.”
Dr. Adajla: “As every year, the flu vaccination is also an important measure.”
Dr. Farley: “Yes, individuals should get their annual flu shot this year, especially given that the wording has changed to better fit the expected circulating influenza viruses in the 2022-23 flu season
Doubling the flu, COVID-19 vaccinations
All three experts agreed that there is no difference between getting one vaccine or another first and that they can get it safely together.
Dr. Adajla: “Since the flu season hasn’t really started yet in the northern hemisphere, the [Omicron] booster is currently more important.”
Dr. Schaffner: “There is no contraindication for getting them at the same time. Some people will want to spread it simply because they don’t want two sore arms at the same time. In fact, I was just giving a talk and one of my colleagues was there. He only said yesterday that he had had them both in one arm and one in the other.”
Pregnant people and vaccines
Dr. Schaffner said he wanted to address any concerns pregnant people have about vaccines:
“Should pregnant women get these two vaccines? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” It is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and [Gynecologists]. The data shows that both vaccines are safe during pregnancy.
We have data from the influenza vaccine that [he] not only protects the mother, but that some of these antibodies cross the placenta and protect the newborn for the first four to six months of life.”
He noted that this “wasn’t as well investigated with COVID-19.”
“We’d think it’s likely because that was the case under different circumstances. When mothers are immunized with other vaccines — such as TDAP — these antibodies pass into the baby. So it’s likely that this is also the case with COVID.”