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4 Seniors: How to Manage Converging Flu and COVID-19 Booster Shots

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A syringe being filled before a graphic of virus cells and, 'FLU SEASON AND COVID-19'.

Weíre already two weeks into fall, which means itís time for the seasonal pumpkin spice-flavored products and, of course, your flu shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), now is the time to get inoculated against influenza viruses. Even though influenza (flu) was almost nonexistent last season Ė due to COVID pandemic protection measures like mask wearing and social distancing Ė health experts are predicting that this flu season could be a very difficult one.

But now that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots have been approved for some people in the U.S., you may be wondering if itís OK to get the flu shot and your COVID booster in the same visit.

The answer is yes! According to the CDC, you can get both shots at the same time because the vaccines will not interfere with each other. It is, however, suggested that you get each vaccine in a different arm, to reduce any soreness or swelling that might occur.

Are you eligible for a booster? The CDCís guidance currently allows third doses of the Pfizer vaccine for people who got two Pfizer shots at least six months ago who are age 65 or older, living in a long-term care facility or who are ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions. Younger adults with qualifying illnesses or jobs may also opt for one.

Booster shot recommendations for those previously vaccinated with Moderna or Johnson & Johnson should be coming out in the next week or two.

Flu Shots for Seniors
If youíre age 65 or older, there are two different types of flu vaccines that are recommended for you this season (you only need to get one of them). These FDA-approved vaccines are designed to offer extra protection beyond what a standard flu shot provides, which is important for older adults who have weaker immune defenses and have a greater risk of developing dangerous flu complications.

The two vaccines are the Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent, a high-potency vaccine that contains four times the amount of antigen as a regular flu shot does, which creates a stronger immune response for better protection. And the FLUAD Quadrivalent, which contains an added ingredient called adjuvant MF59 that also helps create a stronger immune response.

You should also be aware that both these vaccines can cause more of the mild side effects that can occur with a standard-dose flu shot, like pain or tenderness where you got the shot, muscle aches, headache or fatigue. And neither vaccine is recommended for seniors who are allergic to chicken eggs, or those who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past.

If you are allergic to eggs you can ask for a Flucelvax or FluBlok shot. Neither of these vaccines uses chicken eggs in their manufacturing process.

Pneumonia Vaccine
If you havenít already done so, you should also consider getting a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine this year. The bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae is one of the most common causes of bacterial pneumonia, which hospitalizes around 250,000 and kills about 50,000 Americans each year.

The CDC recommends that all seniors, age 65 or older, get the one-time single dose of PPSV23 (Pneumovax 23). The pneumococcal vaccine can also be received at the same time as your other shots.

All flu, COVID-19 and pneumococcal vaccines are covered 100 percent by Medicare Part B as long as your doctor, health clinic or pharmacy agrees not to charge you more than Medicare pays.

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