It’s flu season

September 17, 2021 Swedish Health Team

We’re all talking about vaccines lately. What works best? How will they affect me? When should I get it? Who can get it? As we move through the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot forget that flu season is upon us. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently reporting low flu activity at this time, it’s important to keep in mind that influenza is not just a bad cold. It’s a serious illness and poses a very real threat—especially to seniors, children, and the immunocompromised. The CDC recommends that everyone aged six months or older receive a yearly flu vaccination. Wondering about getting your flu shot and how it might affect you, especially if you have recently received your COVID-19 vaccination? Here are answers to some common questions about and concerns about this year’s flu vaccine.

Can COVID-19 and flu vaccine be administered at the same time?

Yes. If given at the same time, COVID-19 vaccines and flu vaccines that might be more likely to cause a local reaction and some studies indicate that patients receiving both shots at the same time reported increased soreness at the injection site.

Can I receive a flu vaccine and booster shot around or at the same time?

You can receive both shots at the same time. It is recommended that you do get the vaccine at different site injection areas. If you have a particular situation and have any questions or concerns, it is best to speak with your doctor.

If I suspect I have or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, should I get a flu shot?

No. Postpone your flu vaccination until you meet the criteria recommended for leaving quarantine or isolation by the CDC for COVID-19 patients. If you have mild illness, you can still get your flu vaccination, otherwise, avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients to the virus that causes COVID-19.

What if I have symptoms after the flu vaccine? Is it COVID-19?

It’s understood that vaccines can cause side effects. With the flu vaccine, they’re generally mild and go away on their own within a few days. According to the CDC, the most common side effects of the flu vaccine include soreness, redness, and/or swelling at the injection site, headache, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue. Because some of the symptoms of flu vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine, and the actual respiratory illnesses caused by COVID-19 are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. While the above side effects are considered common and within normal limits for the flu shot, they generally last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?

No, because the flu shot is made with inactivated viruses. However, it can trigger an immune response from your body, which may cause you to experience mild, flu-like symptoms like soreness or a low-grade fever. The most common reaction to the flu vaccine is soreness or redness around the area where the shot was given.

Why did I get sick after my flu shot?

There are many reasons. You may have been exposed to a non-flu virus before or after your vaccination. While the flu vaccine can prevent illnesses caused by flu viruses, it cannot protect against non-flu viruses that may cause flu-like illness. You might also have been exposed to flu after you got vaccinated but before the vaccine took effect. It takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine for your body to build protection against the flu. The flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will cause the most disease during the upcoming season and you may have been exposed to an influenza virus different from the viruses included in that year’s vaccine.

I’m pretty healthy. Do I really need a flu shot every year?

Yes. A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual flu vaccination is needed to ensure the best protection against the flu. Also, the virus changes its makeup every season, so you need a new shot to protect against a new virus. And healthy people can still carry the virus and may inadvertently pass it on to those vulnerable population groups we serve without experiencing symptoms. Even though rates of serious illness are highest among people 65 years of age and older, children under 2 years of age, and those with an underlying chronic medical condition, healthy people need to receive the flu vaccine to lower the chances of passing it to others. 

Can I have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. It is possible to test positive for flu (as well as other respiratory pathogens) and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time. 

Will the flu vaccine affect my COVID-19 test results?

No. COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are different diseases. COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. The flu is caused by influenza viruses. Whether you are tested for a current COVID-19 infection or to see if you previously had COVID-19, a past flu shot in will not cause a false positive test result for either test. 

Will my flu shot help fight the coronavirus?

While the flu shot won’t protect you from developing COVID-19, but it can help us respond better to the COVID-19 outbreak. Fewer cases of the flu mean more resources available to fight COVID-19. 

Where can I get vaccinated?

What if I have more questions?

You can visit these sites:

Additional resources

What you need to know about fall booster shots

CDC, FDC recommend third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised patients

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