How long to wait between getting flu, COVID-19, MMR vaccines

Flu season is almost upon us, and for many of us that means flu jabs.

But there are three major immunisation programmes underway: flu, COVID-19, and MMR. So what happens if you need more than one?

The Ministry of Health says you cannot get all the vaccines at once - it's imperative to wait between them.

It recommends people have at least a two-week gap between receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and influenza vaccine, and a four-week gap between receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine when the MMR vaccine is given first.

"Having a gap between different types of vaccinations, especially considering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is still relatively new, helps us be sure about any side effects that may occur," the ministry says.

"Standard advice after receiving a MMR vaccine is to wait for four weeks before having any other vaccine. If someone is within four weeks of receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the Ministry currently advises that priority should be given to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine over MMR. This advice will continue to be reviewed as further clinical data becomes available."

The flu vaccine campaign is due to get underway in the next couple of weeks and that will clash with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The influenza immunisation programme will first target those aged 65 and over, and then in May other groups.

The Ministry of Health says over 2.4 million doses of the flu vaccine have been secured, which is almost 300,000 doses more than last year's record supply.

"Importantly those most in need of protection against this year's influenza season will be able to be protected soon - and for free," says Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay.

"Last year we saw a record number of people being immunised - over 1.77 million - despite relatively low numbers of reported cases in New Zealand last year.

"This shows people heeded the call to protect themselves and others from the flu, and protect capacity in the health system."

How long to wait between getting flu, COVID-19, MMR vaccines
Photo credit: Getty Images

When the COVID-19 vaccination campaign ramps up, the Ministry of Health says DHBs will continue with childhood immunisations, including outreach immunisation services, school-based immunisation programmes, and BCG vaccination services.

"The Measles, Mumps and Rubella 'catch up' campaign will focus on GP and pharmacy-based immunisation. During the coming months the focus will be on the COVID-19 immunisation programme, which will take priority for some DHBs," the ministry says.

"The MMR catch-up campaign will ramp up again in October, building on the infrastructure and experience from the COVID-19 immunisation campaign."

If people have any specific questions about which vaccine is the priority for them, the Ministry of Health encourages them to talk to a health professional. If there are questions about other vaccines, clinicians can use the Immunisation Advisory Centre hotline on 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) for advice.