ATLANTA - The flu vaccine is here, and Dr. Felipe Lobelo, program director for epidemiology, public health, and preparedness for Kaiser Permanente Georgia, recommends getting your shot as quickly as you can find it.
"I think it is important to be protected as soon as possible, rather than waiting a few more weeks, waiting until the flu activity picks up more, and obviously you're at risk," Dr. Lobelo says.
This fall, flu shots may be rolling out at the same time a COVID-19 boosters shots, if the FDA authorizes third doses.
So can you get a flu shot and booster at the same time? Dr. Lobelo says yes.
"With the COVID vaccine, initially there was obviously a recommendation to avoid other vaccinations around the same time because we wanted to see if there was any signal of potential side effects with the COVID vaccine," he says.
Now, that over 380 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given in the US, Lobelo says, they feel confident the vaccine is safe.
"The risk of side effects is very, very low, even lower than with other vaccinations," Lobelo says. "So, there is really no concern of getting both the flu and an additional COVID vaccine at the same time."
If you are concerned about getting both vaccines at once, you can space them apart.
There is another reason to get vaccinated, Dr. Lobelo says: to avoid confusion.
Hospital emergency departments and urgent cares across the South are crowded with COVID-19 patients. If you get sick with a respiratory virus, it may take time to get in and get tested, to figure out which virus you have.
Lobelo says flu and COVID-19 symptoms can be similar, especially early on.
"And, we really want to know whether it's COVID or flu because the potential treatments including early treatments for COVID, like monoclonal antibodies and other treatments we use are going to be critical to be given early on," Dr. Lobelo says. "Same thing with flu: we have antivirals that can be used to help reduce the viral load and the symptoms for flu."
Lobelo says flu shots for children under 12, are especially important.
They are not yet eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, but they can get flu shots if they are at least 6-months-old.
He says flu shots may be a key tool in keeping schools open.
"You want to protect your kids, at least for the vaccine they have available for flu right now in, to give them a chance so that they can stay in school, so schools don't have outbreaks, and so that we can continue moving along with the school year with at least disruption as possible," Lobelo says.
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