Is it OK to get flu and COVID-19 vaccines together?

Vaccines have resulted in an impressive 99 percent decline in the incidence of more than a dozen potentially deadly diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Now, in addition to a yearly flu shot, a reformulated COVID-19 vaccine and booster targeted to the latest circulating variants is being offered this fall. Plus, if you’re 60 or older, you’re eligible for a new seasonal vaccine to protect against RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), which can cause severe and even life-threatening disease in seniors and other vulnerable groups.

Scheduling individual appointments for all these vaccines — not to mention other adult vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as the shingles vaccine and a tetanus or Tdap shot — is a hassle.

One way to simplify the matter is to get two vaccines at the same time — or even three. But is it safe? Do vaccines become less effective if you bundle them? And what about side effects like a sore arm?

Experts say it’s fine to multitask your vaccines. Theoretically, there’s not a maximum number of vaccines you can get at the same time if you’re willing to have sore arms — you could get four or five together, said an infectious disease epidemiologist at Yale Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

A vaccine doesn’t become less potent when it’s delivered in a group of immunizations. They are equally effective whether you give them together or separately. The immune system sees the different protein fragments (used in traditional vaccines), or mRNA fragments (utilized in certain COVID-19 vaccines), as separate from each other.

Our immune system is designed to sort all this out. On an average day, the body might be exposed to multiple allergens, viruses, or bacteria and a healthy immune system is able to recognize and mount some level of defense against each.

Studies suggest that the convenience of bundling vaccines makes this approach appealing among people of all ages.

If you get a COVID vaccine and the flu vaccine on the same visit, it’s far more convenient, experts say. Add in the new RSV vaccine for adults, if you are eligible, and you could get all three of those at once. That goes for the pneumococcal vaccine, the tetanus vaccine — all the most common adult vaccines can be given at once or in any combination.

Two shots, two arms? That all depends on your preference. Some people find it less painful to do one in each arm, but others are reluctant to have a sore left arm and a sore right arm at the same time. If one of your shots is a COVID-19 booster, a recent study published in the journal eBioMedicine found that the immune response is stronger if you get it in the same arm as your previous COVID-19 vaccine.

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