Getting the COVID and flu vaccines simultaneously could be safe and even beneficial, according to study findings presented at the Vaccines Summit Boston this week.
In a study, researchers found that people who got both shots at the same time showed higher levels of antibodies against COVID than those who got the two vaccines on different occasions.
Among 42 health care workers in Massachusetts, 12 of them received a bivalent COVID booster and a seasonal influenza shot on the same day last fall.
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Another group of 30 got the two shots on two separate days within that same month.
Three to four weeks later, those who had gotten both vaccinations simultaneously were found to have higher levels of COVID-fighting antibodies than those who received the shots separately.
That higher level of protection was detected for as long as six months, the researchers found.
“We showed that the COVID antibody responses were higher and more durable if the COVID and flu vaccines were given on the same day,” said Susanna Barouch, the study’s lead author and an intern at the Ragon Institute’s Systems Serology Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the conference.
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The study findings have been published to the preprint server BioRxiv, but they’re currently in the peer review process and have not yet been published in a scientific journal.
“We thought that these findings were very important for immediate public health decision-making,” said Ryan McNamara, the lab’s director and senior author on the study, in explaining the early release of the data.
“I would have to see more data before I would say that combining them is a better strategy.”
As far as why the human body produces a higher immunity response after a double vaccination, McNamara hypothesized that the simultaneous doses could stimulate the immune system more than a single shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on its website that “getting a flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same visit is recommended if you are eligible and the timing for each vaccine is right.”
Some studies have shown, however, that getting both vaccines together could increase the intensity of side effects.
In a 2022 study published in JAMA Network Open, participants who got both shots at the same time experienced up to 11% more side effects, including headache, muscle pain and fatigue.
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Other research has suggested that receiving dual shots could slightly increase the risk of stroke among the elderly.
Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, commented to Fox News Digital that the size of the study was very small, consisting of only 42 health workers.
“I wouldn’t change clinical practice as a result,” said Siegel, who was not involved in the research.
“It makes some sense that priming the immune system with exposure to two antigens (flu and SARS COV-2) at the same time could cause a more robust overall immune response,” the doctor went on.
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“But the downside is that if you experience side effects, you won’t know which vaccine caused them, since the most common side effects are somewhat similar — such as muscle aches, headaches and sore arm.”
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Siegel said in his own practice, he tends to space out vaccinations unless the patient wants the shots to be given at the same time.
Added the doctor, “I would have to see more data before I would say that combining them is a better strategy.”
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