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Can people get the COVID-19 vaccine alongside other immunizations?

This article was published on
May 20, 2021

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The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently stated that they believe it is safe to administer COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as other vaccines. However, vaccines given on the same day should be injected in different areas, there is uncertainty about whether or not giving two or more different vaccines at once may cause worse side effects, or if vaccines containing weakened live viruses might require different guidance. At this time, the World Health Organization has not issued new recommendations for administering different vaccines at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine, though it has listed the AstraZeneca vaccines for emergency use. This vaccine contains a weakened live pathogen so health regulators may decide if it is safe to administer this vaccine at the same time as others.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently stated that they believe it is safe to administer COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as other vaccines. However, vaccines given on the same day should be injected in different areas, there is uncertainty about whether or not giving two or more different vaccines at once may cause worse side effects, or if vaccines containing weakened live viruses might require different guidance. At this time, the World Health Organization has not issued new recommendations for administering different vaccines at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine, though it has listed the AstraZeneca vaccines for emergency use. This vaccine contains a weakened live pathogen so health regulators may decide if it is safe to administer this vaccine at the same time as others.

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What our experts say

It is safe to administer COVID-19 vaccines the same day as other vaccines, according to the U.S. CDC's changed guidance that previously suggested people wait two weeks after their final COVID-19 vaccine before getting any other shots.

The reason for the earlier policy was "[O]ut of an abundance of caution and not due to any known safety or immunogenicity concerns." (Immunogenicity measures how well a vaccine can cause an immune response against a virus or other pathogen).

Now that scientists have collected and analyzed more data the organization has changed its stance, but recommends that health care providers administer different vaccines in different injection sites. If a person gets a COVID-19 shot in their upper left arm for example, they should get any other vaccine in their right upper left arm, or at least one inch away from the COVID-19 injection site.

Vaccines that are likely to cause a local reaction like soreness, rashes, or itching should be given in different limbs, according to reccomendations. COVID-19 vaccines fall into this category, and so do the bacille Calmette-Guérin tuberculosis (BCG) and Pertussis vaccines.

At this time, we don't know whether COVID-19 vaccine side effects will be worse when they're given at the same time as other vaccines, especially ones with live virus or adjuvants (vaccine ingredients that help enhance the body's immune response to a virus or pathogen). Regions or locations using COVID-19 vaccines that may contain live virus may or may not choose not to follow this guidance until more data is evaluated.

Context and background

To be sure, some national health authorities around the world still recommend spacing out the COVID-19 vaccine and other shots. In the UK, for example, guidance is still to keep a 7 day gap where possible. It should also be noted that no vaccines used in the United States contain live virus, so US guidance may be best suited for specific areas where no live virus COVID-19 vaccines are given, including in Zimbabwe.

Resources

  1. COVID-19 advice for the public: Getting vaccinated (World Health Organization)
  2. General Recommendations on Immunization (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  3. Vaccine Reactions (World Health Organization)
  4. Weekly epidemiological record (World Health Organization)
  5. Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  6. Zimbabwe authorises Sputnik V, Sinovac coronavirus vaccines for emergency use (Reuters)
  7. WHO lists additional COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and issues interim policy recommendations (World Health Organization)

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