One of the biggest challenges that many healthcare professionals face each year is convincing their patients to get a seasonal flu vaccine. People delay or skip getting a flu vaccine for a myriad of reasons.

A few common reasons, according to the American Medical Association (AMA), include an aversion to needles, a conviction that it’s better to get the flu than a flu shot, and the belief that they’ll have time later to get a flu vaccine.

You may be one of those people who have good intentions, but you just get busy and suddenly flu season has rolled around and you’re wondering if you still have time. But what if you need to get other vaccines too?

Here’s what you need to know about the timing of some vaccines that are recommended for most adults, including the flu vaccine and the shingles vaccine.

Experts recommend that everyone at or over the age of 6 months get a seasonal flu vaccine each year, with a few exceptions.

Meanwhile, you have to wait until you’re a certain age to get a shingles vaccine. A two-dose shingles vaccine (known as Shingrix) is recommended for adults age 50 and older — or adults age 19 and over if they have a weakened immune system. The second dose is typically given within 2 to 6 months after the first dose.

Fortunately, you don’t have to juggle these vaccines if you’re eligible for them. Not only can you get a flu vaccine right after getting a shingles vaccine, but you can actually get them at the same time.

Understanding the combined side effects

It’s safe to get both vaccines at the same time, but you may still experience some side effects afterward. However, it’s important to know where the side effects are coming from.

A 2021 study found that people who got both vaccines at once were less likely to get a flu vaccine the following year. Why? The researchers suggested that they may have mistakenly blamed the flu vaccine for the side effects that were actually caused by the zoster vaccine (for shingles). So they skipped their flu shot.

The most common side effects from a flu shot are some redness, soreness, or swelling at the injection site, whereas the shingles vaccine is more likely to cause systemic effects, according to the 2021 study.

How long do I need to wait after getting another vaccine before getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

In many cases, you don’t have to wait at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that you can get a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

You can get a shingles vaccine, flu vaccine, and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, too, if that works for you.

Was this helpful?

You definitely don’t want to get a shingles vaccine when you’re having an acute shingles episode. You’ll need to check with a doctor about the best timing for your vaccination following a shingles infection, but as a general rule, the CDC advises that you wait until the rash from the shingles clears up before you get a shingles vaccination.

As for a flu shot, the same basic advice applies: it’s best to wait for the shingles to clear up before you get another vaccine. Let your immune system finish dealing with shingles first before trying to teach it something new.

According to the CDC, the shingles vaccine is very effective: it’s more than 90% effective in preventing shingles in adults over 50 years of age with healthy immune systems.

However, many people experience temporary side effects for 2 to 3 days after getting a shingles vaccine. The CDC reports that those side effects can include:

The side effects can vary from person to person, although younger people seem more susceptible to them than older people. However, they usually go away within a couple of days.

It’s possible to experience more severe side effects from the Shingrix shingles vaccine, but the CDC reports that it’s rare: perhaps one or two people will experience an allergic reaction for every million doses of the vaccine administered. One possible rare adverse reaction is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a disorder of the nervous system.

Talk with doctors about a vaccine schedule

It may be easier for you to chat with a doctor if you have specific questions about which vaccines you need and the ideal time to get them, especially if you have any other health concerns that might affect your needs.

Was this helpful?

It’s all too easy to skip getting vaccines that could help you stay healthier. Even with good intentions, you might put off getting a flu shot until you’ve already come down with the flu. And you may not even be familiar with the shingles vaccine recommendations.

In terms of receiving multiple vaccinations, you don’t have much to worry about. It’s safe to get a flu vaccine right after you’ve had a shingles vaccine. You can even get them at the same appointment if you want to.

While you may experience mild flu-like side effects, these are most likely just your body’s standard reaction to the shingles vaccine.

If you have questions about either of these vaccines, be sure to ask a doctor. Together, you can figure out the best way to approach vaccination, based on your specific needs and medical history.