Experts are advising that elderly people go ahead and roll up their sleeves for multiple doses of vaccines this winter despite a new study that found an increased risk of strokes for those who received a combo of the COVID booster and a high-potency flu shot last year.
According to the recently released study backed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is an elevated risk of ischemic stroke for those over 85 years old who received both the COVID jab and the high-dose flu shot at the same time and, although experts are downplaying the study as being preliminary, it could potentially deter a vaccine weary and skeptical public to skip the shots.
But medical experts told the Daily Mail that “the risk associated with getting both flu and COVID vaccines, as well as the new RSV vaccine at once, is so small that people can still be comfortable with getting them done all in one sitting.”
“The short answer is no, this should not dissuade people from getting [COVID and flu shots] done simultaneously. I got the COVID and flu in the same arm simultaneously,” Vanderbilt University School of Medicine preventive medicine and infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner told the outlet.
“The data are very small and inconsistent in other databases – England, France, and Israel have done similar look-back studies and have not found similar risks. This is likely a statistical fluke or a very, very low increased risk compared to the risk of stroke following either COVID or influenza,” added Schaffner, a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who studied the analysis before it was published.
“That amount of risk is tiny. It’s miniscule. I wouldn’t let that stop anybody from getting vaccines,” Johns Hopkins University cardiologist Dr. Lili Barouch, told the outlet. “If people are concerned about spreading them out by a couple of weeks, that’s fine. People should get all the vaccines, so if they can do that all at once that’s great but I wouldn’t let this small risk make them not get vaccinated.”
“Personally I’m planning on getting them all at the same time and I usually get them in the same arm, so I don’t have two sore arms,” she said. “We don’t want to read too much into that small amount of information.”
Another medical expert, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine immunologist Dr. Stuart Ray told the Daily Mail, “It’s wise to have a discussion with one’s care providers about that person’s individual risk. But I think it’s reasonable to consider spacing these out.”
“Some people are at more risk for vascular events than others. I think it also depends on whether that person is, from a respiratory point of view, very fragile, if they have chronic lung issues an infection like RSV could cause precipitous illness,” he added.
Responding to the FDA-funded study, the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Dr. Dan Barouch is quoted by ABC News as saying, “These data should be considered by patients and their physicians, but there is no reason for alarm. The increased risk of stroke appears to be small and must be balanced against the known benefit of these vaccines in elderly individuals.”
“Additional data are needed before we can consider these findings definitive. It is good that the FDA has made these safety data available to inform the public,” Barouch added.
“There is no need for panic, and emphatically no need to stop giving COVID and flu shots at the same time to older adults,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, University of California, San Francisco infectious diseases specialist, according to ABC News.
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