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Medical professionals urge people to get new COVID booster, flu shot together

Data from Southern Hemisphere puts upcoming Flu season on par with H1N1 in 2009

With new boosters for COVID-19 approved for most Americans and an ominous flu season on the horizon, health professionals recommend getting both shots together, if possible.

The new boosters cleared federal hurdles last week, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that anyone age 12 and older who is at least two months out from their primary vaccine series should get the new shot.

The updated shots — formulated to target the newer omicron variant — come as the Northern Hemisphere gears up for its first significant flu season in two years. Based on flu data from the Southern Hemisphere, health professionals anticipate a significant flu season that will likely start earlier.



“We’re going to see probably the worst year we’ve seen in a couple years in terms of respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, UCHealth’s senior medical director for infection prevention and control. “You can knock the two out that are going to be most likely to really knock you out and put you in the hospital.”

There are two versions of the new booster, one made by Pfizer and one by Moderna. The Pfizer shot is approved for those down to age 12, while the Moderna shot is approved for those 18 and older, though you must have completed the initial vaccine series to be eligible.



Lauren Bryan, an infection preventionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, said the new shots are a hybrid with half geared toward the initial strain of the COVID-19 virus, and half targeting newer BA.4 and BA.5 omicron strains.

“Immunity does wane over time and this is a virus that has mutated a great deal,” Bryan said. “Being able to ensure that your immune system is really prepared to do battle with the current variant is important, especially as we go into these winter months.”

There are few restrictions on who can get the new booster and most people should talk to their primary care doctor about getting the shot.

Stock of the new booster is coming out in waves, but Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said some local providers are starting to get doses.

UCHealth is encouraging patients to check their My Health Connection account at UCHealth.org/MyHealthConnection for available booster appointments. Lindsey Reznicek, communications strategist for UCHealth, said appointments would be available once the hospital has booster doses in hand.

Routt County Public Health is expected to get its own doses of the new booster later this week and will offer them by appointment from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Information about how to schedule an appointment can be found at CO.Routt.CO.US/641/Public-Health.

Also, Colorado’s mobile vaccine bus will be in Steamboat at the Walmart parking lot on Wednesday, Sept. 7, and will have doses of the new booster available. Appointments can be made at MobileVax.us, though the vaccine bus does accept walk-ups.

“We are scheduling (the vaccine bus) to be back in mid-October,” Smith said.

The bus will also offer free flu vaccines. Like Barron and Bryan, Smith recommended people get at the same time as their COVID-19 booster.

There is increasing focus on flu this year after it has been almost non-existent in the two previous flu seasons. Barron said this is likely because precautions taken for COVID-19 were also successful at curbing the spread of flu.

When restrictions were lifted last spring, Barron said they started to see more cases of flu in May, which is an unusual time of year.

“The other piece is because we haven’t seen lots of flu in two years, our immunity is down,” Barron said, offering another reason people should be getting flu shots this year.

This flu season is expected to be particularly bad because that is what the Southern Hemisphere experienced earlier this year, Barron said. Places like Australia also experienced an earlier surge of flu cases, indicating to Barron that flu season here will likely ramp up in November, rather than December or January.

Data from the Southern Hemisphere in terms of cases and severity with flu tracks closely to 2009, Barron said. That was the year of the H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic.

Both the new COVID-19 booster and flu shot will take time to create an immune response, so Barron suggested people pursue both now rather than waiting to see how flu season plays out.

“I would encourage people to get it done when they find the convenience and not wait to see what happens,” Barron said. If you wait, you’re sort of already in the thick of it and then the likelihood of you getting sick is much higher. And that’s the worst if you got a shot and then got sick right afterwards.”


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