Campus Life

Can I get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As fall approaches, it’s more important than ever to get your annual flu shot. And if you haven’t gotten your COVID-19 vaccine yet, physicians say it’s fine to save yourself a trip and get both shots at the same time.

I heard the flu disappeared last year — do I really need a flu vaccine this year?

Although it’s true that last year’s flu season was unusually mild, Dr. Leslie Parent, vice dean for research and graduate studies and an infectious diseases specialist at the Penn State College of Medicine, says that’s all the more reason to make sure to get your flu vaccine this year.

“Influenza infections were significantly reduced last year due to masking, social distancing, reduced travel, remote work and other mitigation measures in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Parent said. “However, as we participate in more in-person activities, we expect that influenza and other respiratory viruses could circulate at much higher levels this fall and winter. So, it’s very important for everyone to receive their annual flu vaccine so they have as much protection as possible from getting sick from the flu.”

It would also be a good idea to get the flu shot as soon as it’s available to you. While flu season typically runs from October to March, Parent says that when mitigation measures were lifted earlier this summer, other respiratory viruses started circulating in unusual patterns.

“RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a respiratory illness that is common in children during the winter months, but the U.S. saw outbreaks in kids over the summer,” she said. “It’s possible that the flu could follow a similar pattern this year and start hitting communities earlier than usual, so we all need to be prepared in case that happens.”

Finally, Parent said because of low flu cases last year, doctors aren’t exactly sure how influenza and the coronavirus would interact in the body. Becoming infected with both viruses at the same time is possible and could increase the chance of becoming more severely ill. Continuing to wear masks in public, avoiding crowds and practicing good hand-washing are also important to protect you against getting infected from these viruses.

I still need to get my COVID-19 vaccine — can I get both shots at the same visit?

Parent said, yes, the CDC says it’s fine to get both shots at the same time. 

“Earlier in the pandemic, CDC guidance was to space out COVID-19 immunizations because the vaccines were new, but they recently amended that recommendation,” she said. “The CDC now says that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time you get the flu shot is safe and won’t affect your immune response to either one. However, it’s also okay if you prefer to get your flu and COVID-19 shots on separate dates. The most important thing is to be vaccinated against both viruses.”

Several other vaccines that protect you from infections are given together as combination shots, including MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis). 

Where can I get the vaccines?

University Health Services (UHS), a unit of Penn State Student Affairs, is administering free COVID-19 vaccinations for all students in the Student Health Center at University Park. Appointments are available from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and students can schedule an appointment via myUHS. Students can schedule a flu vaccine at the same time or attend one of the upcoming flu shot clinics on Thursday, Sept. 30, or Monday, Oct. 25.

In addition, Penn State Human Resources, in partnership with Health Advocate, is offering free influenza vaccines for all Penn State employees, regardless of participation in a University-sponsored health care plan. 

Last Updated September 01, 2021