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The updated COVID-19 booster and the annual flu shot: What you need to know.



We get it. We’d all love to put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror and the annual flu can seem like a seasonal annoyance. But the facts are clear: vaccines are the best way to protect yourself from serious illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. deaths from COVID-19 average 400 a day. The winter is expected to bring a surge of new cases, especially as many people and places have relaxed mask wearing and social distancing.

And let’s not underestimate the toll of the annual flu. According to the CDC, “Millions of people get flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year.”

Fortunately, there is protection against both.

The updated COVID-19 boosters are here.

Two reformulated booster shots received emergency authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommendations by the CDC. One is from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other is from Moderna.

Following are answers to your questions about the boosters and the annual flu shot.

How is this booster different from previous booster shots?

The previous COVID-19 shots targeted the original coronavirus strain, but many variants have emerged since then. The new boosters were created to add protection against the latest, highly contagious Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5. The subvariants can evade the protection from the original vaccines. BA.5 now accounts for up to 90 percent of cases in the nation, according to the CDC.

The updated boosters are known as bivalent vaccines. Half of the vaccine is the same as the previous vaccine and half is targeted to the Omicron subvariants. Together, they work to broaden your body’s antibody response.

Who is eligible?

The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in people 12 and older, the Moderna in people 18 and older.

Additionally, you must have had your two-shot primary series of shots (Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax) or single shot of Johnson & Johnson, regardless of whether you received booster shots.

If you recently received your initial vaccine(s) or booster(s), you should wait at least two months before getting the updated booster, according to the FDA. Otherwise, you could experience limited effectiveness and the chance of increased side effects.

How long after having COVID-19 should I get a booster?

The amount of time you should wait to get your booster shot after having COVID-19 depends on a number of factors. There is no hard and fast rule, and you should take into account how severe your illness was, how long it’s been since your symptoms resolved, and what your risk for re-exposure is.

The CDC recommends waiting for the booster until you no longer have symptoms and you’ve met their criteria for ending isolation.

Some experts recommend deferring your booster for even longer, to allow your immune system to rest after fighting COVID-19 before activating it to handle the vaccine. If your risk of reinfection is low, it might make sense to wait so that your body ultimately produces a more robust antibody response.

However, those with a high risk of reinfection or serious illness will want to boost their immunity with an extra vaccine dose sooner rather than later.

Where can I get the updated booster/flu shot?

Both the booster and flu shot will be available in similar places as previous vaccinations.  Your doctor or local pharmacy are the best places to start.

To check where the updated booster is available, visit the State’s Covid-19 vaccine appointment finder.

Can I take my flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same time?

Yes! Fortunately, there’s no need to stagger the timing. They can be taken simultaneously.

How much do the vaccines cost?How much will these shots cost me?

Nothing at all! The 2022-23 flu shot and any COVID-19 vaccine, including booster shots, are covered without any cost-sharing under your Horizon health plan.

How effective is the flu shot/updated booster?

Many experts believe the updated booster will work better against the current strains and will give better immunity against new strains. But they said we won’t know for certain for a few more months, once the clinical trials are complete and more people get the updated booster.

As for the flu: Each season, flu vaccines are designed to protect against the four flu viruses that research indicates will be most common.

But strains can change over time, sometimes making the vaccine less effective. The U.S. flu vaccines are about 40 to 60 percent effective on average. According to the CDC, this means the vaccine reduces the chances by 40 to 60 percent that you would have symptoms severe enough to visit a doctor or hospital if you were exposed to the flu.

If you have any questions about the vaccines, please contact your primary care physician.

Horizon Health News is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.