A: It depends! You should not get the vaccine while sick with COVID-19, but other mild illnesses are not necessarily a reason to delay vaccination.
Lots of folks are getting sick right now with all kinds of viral illnesses including the flu, colds, RSV and COVID-19. You might find yourself feeling under the weather right around when you are due for the COVID and flu vaccines. So, the question is: Can I go ahead and get the vaccine?
If you are sick with COVID-19 and still in the isolation period, the answer is a clear no. Vaccination should be delayed until you are feeling better and you have met criteria to stop isolation. This helps protect the healthcare worker giving the vaccine and prevents confusing any of those reactogenic side effects of the vaccine (like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, etc) with new or worsening COVID-19 infection symptoms. Once your isolation is done, you can go ahead and get the COVID-19 vaccine. There is no minimal amount of time you have to wait. And we know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for people who already had COVID-19 infection.
For other illnesses, it all depends on how sick you are and how you are feeling. If you have moderate to severe illness, you should wait until you get better. This helps prevent confusion about new symptoms (is it from the vaccine or from the illness?), gives your body some time to rest, and may help prevent any possible adverse events from the vaccine during times of severe sickness. Once the illness has resolved or improved, you can get vaccinated! Hospitalized patients are often vaccinated (usually flu or pneumococcal vaccines but increasingly the COVID-19 vaccine as well!) when they are getting well enough to go home.
For milder symptoms (and once COVID-19 is ruled out!), like a runny nose, sore throat, headaches or just feeling a little yucky, you can go ahead and get the vaccine (just don’t forget your mask to protect your healthcare team). Fever in mild illnesses is not a reason to skip a vaccine. Vaccines given during mild illnesses have been shown to be safe and effective. The immune system continues to do its job to respond to a vaccine even when you are a little bit sick. Anyone with kids knows that they are constantly getting some cold or other, and if we wait to vaccinate, we miss opportunities and can worsen vaccination rates.
Good news: All of the above information holds true for the influenza vaccine as well! And don’t forget you can get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time. 😉
If you aren’t feeling very well, our best advice is to talk with your primary care clinician about what you can do to feel better but also about when to get your vaccines. They can help sort it out and find the best timing for you.
Stay Safe. Stay Well.
Those Nerdy Girls