Flu season is near and it’s likely that the green light on COVID-19 vaccinations for elementary school-age children is also coming soon.
Between the flu shot and the COVID-19 jabs, some parents may be concerned about their kids having a couple of shots within a small window.
But parents can rest easy: it’s OK for children to have the shots close together, according to pediatricians who talked to MarketWatch on Thursday, the same day Pfizer
announced they had submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11.
When it comes to flu shots and the COVID-19 vaccine, “the simple answer is they can be administered at the same time or shortly before or after one another,” according to Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley, a pediatrician heading the University of Virginia’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease.
The vaccine rollout for kids under 12, following FDA authorization, could start by early November, Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said on CNN.
Some polling suggests a growing number of parents are ready to get their 5- to 11-year-old children vaccinated as soon possible in the face of the delta variant and with winter coming.
Based on “the best available data right now,” there’s no problem with a child receiving a flu shot and a COVID-19 shot during the same trip to the doctor’s office, according to Dr. Adam Ratner, chief of the pediatric infectious diseases division at New York University Grossman School of Medicine’s Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.
“You can get them at the same time,” Ratner said. “There’s no reason to think there would be interference between the two of them,” he later added.
The flu shot, followed by the two COVID-19 shots is fine, he said. So is sandwiching the flu shot between the two COVID-19 shots. Though saving the flu shot for the end is also a way to go, Ratner advises against that sequence because it delays an important flu shot that can happen now.
“People should get their flu shot as soon as they can reasonably do it,” he said. With more children physically back in school and more adults back to work, “I think we will probably have a real flu season,” Ratner said.
Shirley made the same point for parent of kids awaiting the COVID-19 vaccine: For now, parents should have their kids “get the flu vaccine, because they can.”
Despite last year’s fears of a so-called “twindemic,” flu activity in the 2020-2021 season was “unusually low,” said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In almost 820,000 respiratory specimens tested in U.S. clinical labs, 0.2% were positive for an influenza virus, the CDC said. In the three flu seasons before that, positivity rates peaked between roughly 26% and 30%, the public health agency said.
The CDC attributed the 2020-2021 flu season outcome to pandemic-related social distancing and masking measures. There was also a record 193.8 million flu shot doses distributed in the 2020-2021 season, it noted.
When it comes to question of getting a flu shot and COVID-19 shot at the same time, the CDC said there’s “limited data” but “experience with giving other vaccines together has shown the way our bodies develop protection and possible side effects are generally similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines.”
People who are eligible for booster COVID-19 shots can get them at the same time as a flu shot, the CDC said. When the CDC website discussed taking the shots in tandem, it didn’t break out any particular considerations for different age groups.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for 5-11 year olds would come in a smaller dose than what’s used for older age groups. Research on the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine for older age groups does indicate “co-administration” of the shots is fine, Shirley said.
Parents should remember the series of shots their kids are already getting during doctor’s visits, Shirley said.
“What we do know in the 5-11 age group, we give multiple immunizations to them routinely,” and the slew of shots — happening as soon as two months into a child’s life — are tolerated. “There’s no reason to expect that COVID would be different,” she said.
Where to get the shot
Whenever FDA authorization comes for the 5-11 age group, the vaccine is going to be a lot more prevalent than it was during the rollout for parents and grandparents.
“We all want to work toward same thing, the ability for pediatricians to give the vaccine in their office,” Ratner said.
But national pharmacies may also be a site where parents could knock out a flu shot and COVID shot for themselves and their kids. CVS
is ready for “any increase in demand for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine” and will follow rules and recommendations from the CDC and FDA, Joe Goode, a company spokesman said.
The scheduling tool at CVS.com gives patients the option of tacking a flu shot along with a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, he noted. “The flu vaccine is now available at all CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations across the country for people of all ages, including children six months of age and older.”
Following CDC guidelines, “Walgreens pharmacy team members may co-administer vaccinations to patients eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, including children ages 12 and up,” said Alexandra Brown, a Walgreens WBA spokeswoman. “Patients are encouraged to get their initial COVID-19 vaccination series or booster along with their flu shot during the same visit, saving time and providing protection against both viruses.”
As for the 5- to 11-year demographic, Brown said, “we await FDA and CDC guidance for COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”