It’s the time of year when many Americans head to their local pharmacy or health center and get their annual flu shot. For most, it’s a no-brainer and a must-have each fall.
But add to your list this year the new COVID vaccine, which could be available as early as this week. Much like flu shots get updates each year, the COVID vaccine offers a new recipe, and the revamped shots specifically target an omicron subvariant named XBB.1.5.
The COVID vaccines offered previously only targeted the original coronavirus strain and an earlier version of omicron.
The new shots are recommended for those who have had previous COVID shots and first-timers. For those who have previous vaccinations and infections, experts are concerned that immunity is fading in many people.
On Monday, the FDA approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines while the Novavax shot remains under review.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age 6 months and older be given the vaccine in an effort to save lives. According to the Associated Press, COVID is still causing thousands of hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. each week.
The hard work now becomes getting Americans to get the vaccine. In a survey in August that the CDC cited, 42% of people interviewed said they would definitely or probably get the new vaccine, while only 20% of adults got an updated booster when it was offered last year.
While COVID vaccines are expected to cost more than $100 per person, the good news is that the new shots will be free to most Americans through their insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.
The other good news is that the CDC stated there is no difference in effectiveness nor side effects for those who get both the COVID and flu vaccines simultaneously. However, officials did say getting a vaccine in each arm may be more comfortable.
The best time to get vaccinated is by the end of October, according to the CDC, which makes now the perfect time.
Check in with your pharmacy of choice or health care official and make sure the updated vaccines are available. Then, set an appointment to get both the COVID and flu vaccines taken care of — to protect both yourself and each other.