Even as the annual campaign to get everybody vaccinated for the upcoming flu season has been launched, New Jersey health officials continue to urge everybody to get a COVID vaccine, and we could soon get the official word on when the Pfizer COVID booster shot program will be rolled out.

Some Garden State residents are concerned about the prospect of getting vaccinated for COVID and influenza at the same time, but New Jersey infectious disease expert Dr. Meg Fisher, who is serving as a special advisor to state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, said there’s nothing to worry about.

“You can get both shots on the same day. You can even get them in the same arm. You you just have to get the shots about an inch apart,” she said

Fisher said when the COVID vaccines were first introduced last December there were concerns about possible interactions with other vaccines so it was recommended to wait at least 2 weeks after getting a COVID shot to get any other vaccination, but that directive was changed this past spring.

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“Since May, lots of people have been getting other vaccines at the same time as they get their COVID-19 vaccine and we have no evidence that there’s been any problem,” she said.

Fisher also noted there is no evidence you will have a greater chance of getting side effects like a sore arm or a fever when you get more than one vaccine at a time, in fact some folks prefer to get them together.

“Some people they say 'hey, I’m going to be in pain, why don’t I knock off that pain at the same time,'” she said. “I know I don’t feel that great when I get a flu shot. I don’t know if I’m going to feel that great with COVID, so let’s get it all done at once, and that is perfectly acceptable.”

She pointed out when the two shots are given together “the benefit is you get it done, so you don’t have to worry about people coming back for that other vaccine.”

Fisher said also it’s fine if you want to space out a COVID vaccine and a flu shot “but what I would say to people is get that COVID vaccine as soon as you can," adding that COVID is the biggest risk right now. She said people should aim to get their flu vaccine by the end of October.

She said influenza usually starts to circulate in New Jersey in December or January, but with the COVID precautions currently being taken, we could be in for a very mild flu season just like last year.

“There’s no question that masks will decrease the transmission of influenza, because we know influenza, like COVID, is spread primarily by droplets,” said Fisher.

She noted masks help to prevent those droplets from being exhaled into the air by someone who has the flu, and a mask will help prevent someone who is not sick from inhaling those droplets.

She said the flu shot is not nearly as efficacious as the COVID vaccine, but “even if the flu shot doesn’t totally prevent you from getting the flu, it will modify the illness so you won’t get as sick.”

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