COVID-19 boosters should be combined with flu shots: B.C. expert

As health officials urge Canadians to get vaccinated and boosted, one expert says getting a COVID-19 booster with the annual flu shot may be the wave of the future.

Dr. Brian Conway is the CEO and Medical Director of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, and he says getting a flu shot with a booster in the winter may offer best protection.

“If you get influenza, you’ll be more susceptible to being infected with COVID, being vaccinated reduces the risk of getting influenza. Second, influenza reduces the ability of the immune system to fight off other things like COVID.”

Conway says since the COVID vaccine rollout, flu shot rates have been down which according to him, is counterproductive.

“In the fall, every expectation is that we will have a combined COVID shot in flu shot or at least that will have a structure that will give both of them at the same time. So operationally, we have a plan to catch up so people are vaccinated against COVID and influenza.”

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Dr. Theresa Tam says the latest data shows two doses of a vaccine offers reasonably good protection against severe illness from Omicron, but the booster offers “superior” protection from serious infection.

However, Tam has yet to mention a correlation between booster and flu shots and whether a program will be rolled out.

But, Conway says many specialists and virologists are agreeing that similar to the flu shot, booster shots may become an annual procedure.

“Lots of people have said that we’re going forward with the need for a yearly COVID shot. But I heard the very same thing from premier Kenny of Alberta inviting the people of Alberta to get ready for their yearly flu and COVID shots. So if we’ve convinced premier Kenny, I think that we’re well on the road to having this be part of our new normal.”

According to Conway, the United Kingdom is working towards understanding the efficacy of mixing COVID-19 vaccines with flu shots, and the results appeared to be promising.

“They looked at two or three different kinds of COVID shots and two or three different kinds of flu shots by giving them at the same time seeing if there was an increase in the side effects to one or other shot, a decrease in the efficacy to one or other shot and it concluded quite nicely, that whatever you did, everything worked fine. No additional side effects and preserved efficacy of the two vaccines.”

Meanwhile, B.C.’s top doctor says she may soon announce a plan to begin easing COVID restrictions.

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