Ask a Pediatrician: Can Kids Get the COVID-19 Vaccine and Flu Shot at the Same Time?

You ask, we answer. In each edition of “Ask a Pediatrician,” Connecticut Children’s pediatric experts respond to a question from our community.

It’s almost time for your child’s annual flu shot, which typically becomes available in late summer. A COVID-19 vaccine may be authorized for kids age 5 to 11 around the same time – so some parents are asking if their child can get both immunizations at once.

Connecticut Children’s Physician-in-Chief Juan C. Salazar, MD, MPH, FAAP, answers.

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Is it safe for my child to get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time?

Dr. Salazar: Yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently determined that it’s safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other routine vaccines, including the flu shot.

If your child is age 5 to 11, this is good news. Flu shots usually become available in late summer. A COVID-19 vaccine could be authorized for ages 5 to 11 as soon as September or October. So right around the time your child gets their annual flu shot, they could become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. If that happens, they won’t need to wait between vaccines.

(If your child is age 12 or up, they’re already eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine – and should get it now, if they haven’t already. Please don’t wait to time it with a flu shot. More on this below.)

Nurse administers COVID-19 vaccine to patient

Why did the CDC change its guidance about waiting between a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines?

When the COVID-19 vaccine was first authorized in the U.S., the CDC recommended waiting several weeks between it and other vaccines. This was out of an abundance of caution, since the COVID-19 vaccine was brand new to all of us.

Now, hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the U.S. alone, and experts can see that it’s performing as expected. They feel confident that it doesn’t interact with other vaccines, and can be safely and effectively administered at the same time.

> Related: Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Linked to Heart Problems in Young People?

Will getting the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time affect how well each works?

In general, both vaccines should offer the same protection whether they’re given alone or together. Researchers are studying this question in greater detail, but any differences in vaccine efficacy should be minor.

What about getting the COVID-19 shot and flu shot around the same time, but not the same day?

That’s fine. It’s just as safe and effective for your child to get a COVID-19 shot and a flu shot on the same day as it is to get them several days or weeks (or months) apart.

For a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, is there a difference between how the first and second dose could interact with a flu shot?

Good question, especially because Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine may be authorized as soon as this fall for children ages 5 to 11 – and it requires two doses, three weeks apart. Your child could get their flu shot around the same time as either COVID-19 dose.

Will I be able to schedule a single doctor’s visit for my child’s COVID-19 shot and flu shot?

You’ll need to talk to your child’s pediatrician about what’s possible, since it depends on how both vaccines are distributed in your community.

Pediatric practices usually have the flu vaccine once it becomes widely available in late summer. But in Connecticut, most individual pediatric practices don’t yet have Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine (the only vaccine currently authorized for ages 12 to 17, and expected to be authorized first for ages 5 to 11). That could change in the months ahead, but for now, COVID-19 vaccines are available at the state’s vaccine clinics.

Your child’s pediatrician should always be your main point of contact for any health questions or updates. If your child gets the COVID-19 shot or flu shot from somewhere other than their pediatrician’s office, be sure to let their pediatrician know so they can add it to their medical records.

> Related: What’s the Risk? Which Activities Are Safe When Kids Aren’t Vaccinated Yet

Will getting the COVID-19 shot and the flu shot at the same time cause any new or unusual side effects?

According to the CDC, no. And vaccine safety experts will keep a close eye on this.

However, your child could still experience some typical side effects from the COVID-19 shot and the flu shot.

For instance, the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine can both cause soreness where they’re injected. Because of this, your child’s vaccine provider may suggest using different parts of the body for each injection, like giving the flu shot in the right arm and the COVID-19 shot in the left arm.

Your child could also experience fatigue, headache, body aches and low-grade fever as a side effect from one or both vaccines.

All of these symptoms are generally mild and go away within one to two days.

When should my child get their annual flu shot?

I recommend that children and teens get their seasonal flu shot as soon as it becomes available – usually, late summer. There’s no reason to wait, because most kids have a long-lasting immune response to the flu vaccine: A shot in August protects them through all of flu season, as late as May. (Younger kids who have never had a flu shot before, or children of any age with health conditions or treatments that weaken the immune system, usually need a booster shot.)

At latest, plan to have your child’s flu shot by the end of October. This gives their body time to build up full immunity before influenza season peaks in December or January.

> Related: Why Your Child Needs Their Flu Shot ASAP (and Maybe a Second Shot Too)

When should my child get their COVID-19 vaccine?

As soon as they’re eligible. The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect your child from coronavirus, including the highly contagious Delta variant. It’s also the best way to set them up for full participation in school and favorite activities, since quarantine requirements are often different for kids who are fully vaccinated.

If your child is age 12 or older, they’re eligible now – and they should get fully vaccinated right away, so they have the highest level of protection before school starts.

For kids under age 12, keep an eye on the latest news about COVID-19 vaccine trials, subscribe to our Growing Healthy newsletter for updates, and stay in touch with your pediatrician.

What other topics would you like us to address in our “Ask a Pediatrician” series? Let us know at askapediatrician@connecticutchildrens.org.

 

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