Time for COVID-19 Boosters and Seasonal Flu Shots

Columnist Ed Tobias prepares for a potentially severe flu season

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by Ed Tobias |

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It’s the time of the season.

Every year around this time, I get a seasonal flu shot. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, certainly all of my adult life. But this year is a little different.

There are now three flu vaccines preferentially recommended for people 65 years and older (that’s me). There’s also a relatively new COVID-19 booster that targets the latest strains of that virus. I got both shots — seasonal in the right arm and COVID-19 in the left — about a week ago.

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What’s new about the vaccines?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent in November 2019 to provide protection against four flu strains. It has been updated to include new strains for the upcoming 2022-2023 flu season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it contains four times the antigen as standard flu vaccines. The other two vaccines preferentially recommended for seniors are the Flublok Quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine and the Fluad Quadrivalent adjuvanted flu vaccine. A number of other flu vaccines are available for people of all ages, though none are preferentially recommended for those younger than 65.

The updated COVID-19 boosters, approved by the FDA in August and October, are formulated to better protect against the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which are much more transmissible than earlier variants. They can also help to restore protection that may have waned against earlier strains.

Now is the time to get both vaccines

The seasonal flu is already off and running. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told NBC News last week that flu activity is already ramping up across the country, especially in the Southeast and south-central U.S. This is about two months earlier than usual, which Walensky thinks may be due to a drop in the number of people who received the flu vaccination last year.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, health officials are concerned they may see a COVID-19 surge this fall and winter. The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator recommends people get a booster by Halloween.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends both a yearly seasonal flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine for most people with multiple sclerosis (MS). But the American Academy of Neurology recommends against using any live vaccine, such as the FluMist nasal spray, for those taking a disease-modifying therapy (DMT).

There have been concerns that the COVID-19 vaccines may not be as effective for people with MS who are being treated with a DMT that attacks B-cells, such as Ocrevus (ocrelizumab). But a study published in August found that the vaccines are still worthwhile for people with MS. They appear to strongly activate other parts of the immune system that are helpful in fighting the virus.

My vaccine experiences have been good

I’ve never had a bad reaction to a seasonal flu shot. I have occasionally experienced some tenderness at the injection site. This year, I didn’t even have that.

Side effects from my COVID-19 vaccines have been minimal. This year, as was the case after my second shot back in March 2021, I was hit with increased fatigue for a day and my arm was a bit sore. That was it. These reactions appear similar to those reported by other people with MS.

To me, such side effects seem to be a small price to pay for protection against these two illnesses, either of which could make someone seriously ill. I believe that by being vaccinated I’m also helping to keep others from becoming infected with these viruses. I hope you feel the same way.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Debbie O'Rourke avatar

Debbie O'Rourke

Thank you, Mr Tobais, for all the information on flu/covid jabs. Appreciate the layman terms explanations you give.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Debbie,

Translating from "medspeak" to "peoplespeak" is one of the things I try to do. I'm glad this was useful to you.


Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

The only side effect I get from the Covid booster is a low grade fever. Which can be very difficult as I the have trouble walking and moving myself around, getting in and out of bed, walking to the bathroom. I take motrin regularily for 24 hrs to ward this off. But it is all worth it. Much better than being sick.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

I agree, Leanne. I find Tylenol does a good job of keeping my fever down.


Tom Anderson avatar

Tom Anderson

I've had all the shots as they came out as well as flu shots. Had a small fever / fatigue response to the covid vax earlier on. The trade off seemed inconsequential (as in "who cares?"). Haven't had covid yet but I am cautious in other ways too. Haven't had flu since 30 yrs (I'm now 65). Got a relapse with that flu infection and have taken the vax ever since. (The flu is clinically observed to increase chance of relapse significantly; it's not just anecdotal.) This year I took both vaccines in left arm, same day, and I had ZERO side effects. So for me, that's the start of protection. Then, do the other stuff as much as possible. Be aware of where you are and the likelihood of others around you being vaxxed or considerate.. I say that from "ground zero" in denier land. Good Day, Ed,,,. :-)

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Good points, all.


Brenda Hennessy avatar

Brenda Hennessy

Hi. I have had one flu shot shortly after being diagnosed with MS 18 years ago. I was extremely ill after the shot and my neurologist told me I should not have gotten a flu shot nor should I ever get one from there on, nor should I get a pneumonia shot. Wondering if others have been told that by their neurologists. Last year I had pneumonia that lasted six months. I really wished I could have had that pneumonia shot.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Brenda,

I'm very sorry you became so ill after that flu shot. Most people with MS handle them well, as long as they're not the version using a live vaccine, and I'm surprised your neurologist recommended against it. You might have had a live vaccine 18 years ago. I've also had the pneumonia vaccine without a problem.

You might want to look at the National MS Society's full list of vaccine recommendations and discuss them with your neuro. There's a link to it in my column in the section "Now is the time to get both vaccines."



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