LOS ANGELES — Can you get the COVID-19 booster and flu shot at the same time? For Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, the answer is simple.
"I really believe this is why God gave us two arms — one for the flu shot and the other one for the COVID shot," he quipped during a recent briefing.
As public health officials prepare for a possible rebound of the coronavirus this fall and winter, they're also urging people to get vaccinated against the familiar, if recently quiet, foe of influenza.
But busy residents need not fret about booking a pair of appointments. Jha, along with other officials and experts, say it's perfectly fine to roll up each of your sleeves during the same visit.
Health care providers should offer flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same visit to people who are eligible, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Getting both vaccines at the same visit increases the chance that a person will be up to date with their vaccinations," the CDC said in a presentation.
The agency suggested administering each shot in separate limbs.
Other vaccines are fine, too, unless there's a specific reason not to administer them at the time of the health care visit.
"Providers should offer all vaccines for which a person is eligible at the same visit," the CDC said.
Flu shots are now available for everyone age 6 months or older.
Getting the flu vaccine was an annual event for many people but, like most aspects of life, the practice has been upended and interrupted during the pandemic. However, because of other interventions in place to combat COVID-19, the flu has been relatively dormant.
"Influenza mostly disappeared the past two winters, but it returned this past spring of 2022 when we stopped wearing masks," Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "Because we anticipate more flu in the upcoming months, we do encourage everyone to take advantage of the many vaccination sites where you're going to be able to get your flu vaccine and your COVID fall booster at the same time."
Both shots, she added, "provide protection against illness severity, increasing the likelihood of fewer disruptions for you and your family this fall and winter."
Some officials have likened the new COVID-19 boosters to the flu shot. Just as officials formulate the flu vaccine in an attempt to target that year's version of the virus, the updated boosters are designed against both the original coronavirus strain and the omicron subvariants that have dominated the U.S. in recent months, including BA.5.
"We're all familiar with the annual updating of influenza vaccines every year. Scientists monitor flu strains around the world, and this data is used to inform how the annual vaccine should be updated," Ferrer said this month. "The same concept was used in updating the COVID booster."
Moving forward, some officials have speculated it's possible residents might receive annual COVID-19 booster doses, much as they do flu shots.