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Baptist Health Expert Answers FAQs on Flu Vaccines and COVID Boosters

The U.S. flu season is off to its busiest start in many years, adding to a rare mix of viruses that have been keeping hospitals and doctors busy, just as COVID-19 cases had begun to level off. But many people are still vulnerable to COVID during this flu season as families and friends return to large holiday gatherings.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the latest COVID booster and the flu vaccine from Madeline Camejo, M.S., Pharm.D., chief pharmacy officer and vice president of pharmacy services for Baptist Health South Florida.

Can flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines be co-administered and are there any risks?
Dr. Camejo: “Yes, absolutely – get one in each arm. It’s an efficient and effective way to make sure you’re protected. If you are one those folks that experience side effects after vaccination, and you are concerned about side effects from two shots at once, it’s perfectly fine to space out your COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccines. Just know that delaying one of the shots increases the risk that you will get sick before you’re protected.”

Who should get the latest booster vaccine?
Dr. Camejo
: “Everyone. We now know that after six months, the antibodies in our bodies start going down and the chances of getting infected start going up. The booster shot makes sure that our body again starts producing enough antibodies to be keep our bodies protected. You need to stay up-to-date with your vaccines. You should now get the new Bi-valent vaccines which are different from the original. The updated (Bi-valent) boosters are called “bivalent” because they protect against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.”

If someone has already been diagnosed with COVID within the last 6-12 months, should they get a booster?
Dr. Camejo:“Yes, you should get a booster regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 because research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after you recover from COVID-19. Vaccination helps protect you much longer even if you’ve already had COVID-19. You should wait 3 months from the time you had symptoms to get your booster.”

If you have been fully vaccinated with one version of the vaccine, is it okay to receive a booster of a different vaccine? 
Dr. Camejo: “If you are asking whether you can get the Moderna booster when you originally got Pfizer — yes, you can mix or match COVID-19 boosters. Both do what is needed to protect us from getting Covid. You cannot mix the first 2 primary shots. After that, you can get any booster to stay protected.

How long should you wait between taking another booster vaccine? 
Dr. Camejo: “Always stay up to date with your vaccines. Speak to your healthcare provider on when is the best timing for you to receive additional booster. If you have not gotten the new bivalent booster, get it as soon as possible.”

Is it more effective to wait a longer time period since the most recent booster or Covid infection? 
Dr. Camejo: “If you have only received the first 2 primary doses, you need to get a booster as soon as possible. Please speak to your healthcare provider as to when you should be timing your vaccine boosters. Depending on your medical profile, some folks may need boosters sooner than others.”

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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