With flu season swiftly approaching in a country already battling a resurgence of the coronavirus, experts are urging Americans to avail themselves of any and all vaccines they are eligible for — whether it’s their first coronavirus vaccination, a booster vaccine dose to combat waning immunity or a flu shot.

“It’s terribly important” to get both the flu and coronavirus vaccines, said William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “They are both very nasty respiratory viruses that can make many people very, very sick.”

And because the coronavirus and flu vaccines “train your immune system to protect you against completely different viruses,” getting a shot that protects you against one virus will not offer any protection against the other, said Kelly Moore, president and CEO of the Immunization Action Coalition.

“It’s like protecting yourself against a bee and a wasp, both of which can sting you,” Schaffner said. “You’ve got to protect yourself against each one separately.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone be vaccinated against the flu by the end of October. This year, that time frame overlaps with the period that many Americans may become eligible for a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine. A proposed plan from the Biden administration recommends an extra dose be administered eight months after the second shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. (Officials are waiting for more data before proposing a booster timeline for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.)

Extra doses of coronavirus vaccine are already being administered to immunocompromised people. According to the Biden administration proposal, booster shots would become more widely available starting the week of Sept. 20, though they may initially be limited to people who received the Pfizer vaccine. Some experts, including two U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials who are set to depart the agency, disagree about the need for additional shots at this time and the World Health Organization’s chief has criticized the use of boosters for healthy people. But the Biden administration appears to be going ahead with the plan, which requires authorization from federal health agencies.

As Americans prepare to roll up their sleeves again for flu vaccines and possibly coronavirus boosters, here’s what experts say you need to know.

What to know

  • Can you get a covid booster and a flu shot at the same time?
  • If I get both shots, will the potential side effects be worse?
  • What if I want to space the shots out?
  • What if I want to get the shots at the same time?
  • I’ve never gotten a flu shot before. Should I start now?