It's respiratory virus season in BC and that means more people are getting sick with things like the common cold, influenza (the flu) and COVID-19.
Although there's no cure for the common cold, staying home and getting rest is important for getting well and preventing spread to others. Washing your hands frequently can also lessen your chances of catching one. The same techniques can be used for other viruses, but fortunately we do have vaccines that can help reduce your chances of getting sick with the flu or COVID-19.
Getting your flu shot annually during flu season (typically October to early May) can prevent serious illness associated with influenza. By the same token, ensuring your immunity is topped up with a COVID-19 booster dose will provide similar benefits.
We know we need to get our vaccines. But what happens if you get the flu or COVID-19 before you get your vaccine? You may be left with many questions:
Do I still need to get my flu shot or COVID-19 booster if I get flu or COVID-19?
Yes, you should still get your flu shot or COVID-19 booster after recovering from your illness.
When you get sick with a respiratory virus, your body develops antibodies to fight the infection. This is sometimes referred to as “natural immunity" or what happens when your body's own immune system fights unknown pathogens like bacteria or viruses.
We know that vaccines boost your immunity and gives us stronger protection against these respiratory illnesses. Due to systemic barriers in accessing health care and social services, First Nations people are considered to be at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19 or influenza and are strongly encouraged to get the vaccines.
How long do I have to wait after I recover from the flu or COVID-19 before I get a vaccine?
As there are multiple strains (variants) of the flu each year, it's still good to get your flu shot after recovering from your illness. If you have recovered from the flu you can go get your vaccine.
COVID-19 also has multiple variants and in addition, our immunity against COVID-19 wanes over time. Staying up-to-date with your COVID-19 booster provides the best overall protection. The most recent COVID-19 booster for Fall 2022 is the bivalent vaccine, which targets the Omicron variant as well as the original virus first detected in 2019.
Recent research has shown that protection from the COVID-19 vaccine might be better if you wait three months after your positive test result from COVID-19 before getting your booster. However, it is safe to get the vaccine any time after you have recovered. After six months from your infection, your immunity may drop to a level that leaves you less protected against future COVID-19 infection.
Will a flu shot help fight COVID-19, or a COVID-19 vaccine fight the flu?
Unfortunately, no. But the good news is that you can get both your vaccines at the same appointment. If you're speaking to your primary care provider (visit your health centre or community nurse) in community about setting up an appointment for yourself and your family, ask about getting both in the same visit.
For those First Nations people living away from home (i.e., off reserve) you can check your local pharmacy to see about booking flu or COVID-19 vaccines. You can also use BC's Get Vaccinated system where you can select a pharmacy of your choice. If you wish, you can book both your flu and COVID-19 vaccines to be administered at the same time through this system.
(For any questions about side effects, refer to our COVID-19 vaccine page here.)
What happens if I don't get a flu shot or COVID-19 vaccine?
Getting sick is often unpredictable and unavoidable. There are steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting sick:
However, the best way to avoid getting seriously ill with flu or COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Vaccines are safe, effective and free.