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COVID-19 vaccinations, flu shots recommended as the holidays approach

by Brandon Smith | November 20, 2021 at 4:04 a.m.
In this Jan. 23, 2020, file photo, a patient receives an influenza vaccine in Mesquite, Texas. - Photo by The Associated Press

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, health care officials are stressing the importance of families being protected against COVID-19 and the flu, as well as the convenience to receiving both shots at the same time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, both the influenza vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine (or booster) can be administered at the same visit, without regard to timing, as recommended by CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices. This coadministration also increases the probability that people will be fully vaccinated, which ultimately aids the fight against the pandemic. As the holidays present occasions for traveling or being around family and friends, entire families can have a little more peace of mind now that children can be vaccinated, as well.

Ashley Ellis, a pharmacist with CVS Pharmacy in Conway, said Friday that she is seeing numerous children receive their COVID-19 shot in addition to their flu immunization.

"This week, I'm actually at one of our Target locations that has the Pfizer (vaccine) for kids, so I actually had my husband bring my 5-year-old son down this week and gave him both his COVID vaccine and his flu vaccine at the same time," she said. "So it was really nice to be able to take care of both of those. And, especially, going into the holidays and being around grandparents and all of our family, I'll feel a little better with him having a little protection on both, you know."

Ellis said the pandemic is still having a health impact on families and communities throughout the state, and for those yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19, it is not too late. While some may be concerned about the possible side effects while preparing for the holidays, Ellis said both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines fall into the same general category as other vaccines and that they vary from person to person. However, experiencing such a reaction is not a bad thing, but quite the contrary.

"They may include pain at the injection site, warmness, tiredness, even a headache or muscle and joint pains and fever -- that all varies from patient to patient and is to be expected -- but that's an indication of the immune response to the vaccine," she said. "So, in other words, that's just normal signs that your body is building protection against the virus. So it may be uncomfortable for a few hours or maybe even a day or two, but it's actually a good sign."

Ellis noted it can take two weeks after the second dose to be truly, fully vaccinated, and that there is still a chance one could contract COVID-19, though, the impact is less.

"They've been extremely effective in preventing severe disease, and even death -- including from variants like the delta," she said. "But according to the CDC, people who are fully vaccinated can resume any activities they did before the pandemic. But, they're still recommended to wear masks indoors and areas of substantial or high transmission. ... So, kind of depending on where you're going, whether you would still wear that mask or not."

People can still fall ill to the flu or certain other respiratory illnesses, she noted, for which, COVID-19 can present similar sets of symptoms such as fever, cough and body aches. This can make it difficult to tell the difference.

CVS Pharmacy in Hot Springs is currently offering flu vaccines and the Moderna COVID-19 shot for individuals age 18 and older, including first and second doses and booster shots for those eligible. Vaccinations are also available at several Hot Springs area pharmacies including Smith Drug and Compounding, East Gate Pharmacy and others.

"We're here to help and counsel as appropriate beyond the vaccinations, and we've expanded our products to help support overall self care," she said. "Our process is pretty quick and easy. You can go to or our app and schedule an appointment. Also, for those that either get our text messages or can just text the word 'flu' to the number 287898, that will then bring you up a link and allow you to do your digital intake forms. They're all online, and then that way, that limits the exposure time that we have with you during the vaccination process, and so you're able to do all of that at home or in your car before you come in. ... We can even go ahead and knock out the COVID vaccine and your flu shot at the same time for both adults and kids."


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