As we approach the beauty of another Wisconsin fall and winter, it is important for your health — and that of those around you — that you stay up to date on your vaccinations. Getting the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine or booster are lifesaving choices we all can make.
“Staying up to date with your vaccines is a crucial step in protecting yourself and your loved ones,” says Dr. Suzanne Nadra Nouri Havican of ThedaCare Physicians-New London. “Over the last two years we have seen how important it is to help each other by getting immunized, as it has greatly decreased the risk of becoming seriously ill or passing an infection to a loved one.”
You may be healthy enough to come through a bout of influenza (the flu) or COVID-19, but those around you with chronic or underlying illnesses may not be as fortunate. Think about someone you know who is elderly or faces a health struggle, and imagine how ill they might become if they contract the flu or COVID-19.
The upcoming flu season could be more dangerous than in the past, with the possibility of contracting the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously. In addition, when mask use was more widespread, it helped keep cases of the flu down, Dr. Havican says. This season, with masking less commonplace, there will be less protection, leading to a greater spread of flu and COVID-19.
Many people downplay the flu, but every year it leads to hospitalizations and even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that each flu season is unique, but millions of people get the flu each year. This leads to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations as well as the deaths of thousands to tens of thousands of people from flu-related causes.
“Multiple studies show that getting your annual flu vaccine reduces your risk of getting very sick and missing out on the fall and winter holidays,” Dr. Havican says. “It is also important for our Wisconsin ‘snow birds’ to be fully vaccinated prior to their travel.”
The CDC advises that everyone 6 months and older (with a few rare exceptions) get an annual flu vaccine. Flu vaccination is especially important for those at higher risk of becoming seriously ill. Those include our elderly loved ones, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems and chronic diseases like diabetes, lung diseases, high blood pressure, and our friends and family going through cancer treatments.
Some people are surprised to learn the flu is present year-round. Case numbers increase in October and November and peak around February but can linger into March. This timeline means you can get vaccinated as early as September and give your body time to build up immunity. It has been determined to be safe to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines together.
COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters
COVID-19 vaccines are approved for individuals 6 months and older. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved COVID-19 booster vaccines that target the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the virus. This vaccine is referred to as the “bivalent” vaccine.
The Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariant is responsible for 85% to 90% of all U.S. cases of the coronavirus currently circulating. The new vaccines protect us against both Omicron variants and the original COVID-19 strain.
Drug makers Moderna and Pfizer are both offering the updated vaccines as booster doses only. Pfizer’s booster is authorized for those 12 and older, while the Moderna booster is available for those 18 and older.
“The updated COVID-19 booster shots will be extremely important in continuing to fight the coronavirus,” Dr. Havican says. “It’s vital that everyone protects themselves, and this helps each of us to stop the spread of the disease to our loved ones.”
As of Sept. 1, 2022, the current adult booster vaccines will no longer be given at ThedaCare facilities, as the new booster formulations are due to ship this month. ThedaCare will continue to give the primary immunization series (original dose) adult dosing to anyone who has not started or completed their initial COVID-19 primary vaccine series.
ThedaCare will be sure to communicate to the community as the updated COVID-19 booster vaccines become available.
If you have questions about vaccine eligibility, please ask your provider or refer to the following CDC resources:
Remember, Flu Vaccines are Available NOW!
Need to schedule a Flu or COVID-19 vaccine? Log in to MyThedaCare, select Schedule a Visit, and then select Vaccines.