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The flu shot: when is it safe to get it after having COVID?

“If you’ve only just recovered from acute [COVID] infection; it’s similar to all of our guidance, you need to recover from that illness in terms of temperature, fever over 38 degrees, and generally how the child is feeding and drinking [before giving them any immunisation],” says Dr Nigel Crawford, director of SAEFVIC, a vaccine safety and clinical immunisation group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. “You wouldn’t want to give a [flu] vaccine when they’re acutely unwell with COVID.”

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This advice differs from the current vaccine guidelines that people who’ve just contracted COVID should wait three months for their scheduled booster, says Crawford. The COVID booster delay, he says, is to “optimise that dose three months later, rather than giving it straight away [after a COVID infection] because you’re getting some immunity from the COVID infection.”

For one thing, if a child spikes a fever after a vaccine – a common side effect – it would be difficult to tell what has triggered it; the vaccine, or their current illness, says Crawford, a pediatrician.

“COVID, for most children, has been a relatively mild illness, so as long as they’re recovered, feeling like they’re back to normal and you’re ready to take them back to childcare and out and about, that’s also the time to give them the [flu vaccine],” says Crawford.

He urges people of all ages, from six months and up, not to delay their flu vaccination, in general.

“People often wonder whether to wait, kind of thinking when the season might come, ‘Do I get it now, or wait a few months or weeks?’” he says. “Given we’re very uncertain what the season will be, and we’re even seeing cases in the last couple of weeks, we’d encourage everyone to come forward and get the flu vaccine, including those who are at highest risk [of serious illness with the flu],” he says, referring to people who have underlying medical conditions like cystic fibrosis and cancer, are otherwise immuno-compromised, or are indigenous. He urges pregnant women to also get their flu vaccine, as it will give them “double protection”; both for themselves and for their unborn children, who cannot get the vaccine until they are six months old.

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