With the fall and winter season approaching, experts are advising individuals to boost their immunity by getting vaccinated against COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Here are some frequently asked questions answered:
What Shots Are Available?
For COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the updated COVID-19 monovalent vaccine, which targets the XBB 1.5 Omicron strain and is expected to be effective against circulating variants. For flu, the CDC suggests an annual flu shot for everyone aged 6 months and older, with exceptions for severe allergic reactions. A vaccine for RSV has been approved for adults aged 60 and older, and monoclonal antibody products are available for infants younger than 8 months old.
Can You Get Multiple Shots at Once?
It is safe to receive both COVID and flu shots simultaneously, as research shows only a slightly higher chance of side effects without a decrease in efficacy. There is limited information on how the RSV vaccine interacts with other vaccines.
Which Arm Should You Get Your Shots In?
There is no preference regarding which arm to receive the vaccines in. It can be the same arm or different arms. Most people choose to get it in their non-dominant arm.
Is There a Best Time of Day to Get Vaccinated?
While studies suggest that midday administration of COVID and flu vaccines may enhance effectiveness and antibody response, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Consider getting the shots in the morning if you are concerned about fatigue as a side effect.
Should You Get Vaccinated Now or Wait?
Experts recommend getting vaccinated as soon as possible, with COVID and flu vaccines taking priority. There is no reason to delay, as flu immunity does not “wear off” by the end of the season.
How Can You Relieve or Prevent Arm Pain?
Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with arm soreness. Continuing to use and move your arm after the shot can prevent stiffness, and applying a cool wet washcloth can alleviate pain or swelling.
Where Can You Get Vaccines?
COVID and flu shots are available in pharmacies, urgent care centers, and doctor offices. While bigger institutions may receive COVID vaccine supplies earlier, smaller practices and independent pharmacies should also have them soon. The availability of the RSV vaccine may be more limited, and pharmacies are a better option. Pediatricians and family medicine doctors are reliable sources for children’s vaccines.
Are Vaccines Free? What If You Don’t Have Insurance?
Most insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid cover the cost of flu and COVID vaccines. Medicare also covers the RSV vaccine. For those without insurance, local health departments and public health clinics often provide free vaccines.
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
– Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Havey Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
– Dr. David Buchholz, senior founding medical director of primary care at Columbia University Irving Medical Center