PORTLAND, Ore. — Revamped COVID boosters have arrived in Oregon and southwest Washington. The new recipe targets both the original strain of the virus and the two omicron subvariants causing the most infections right now.
“Now we’ve got the kicker. So. now we have m-spike protein for Omicron BA4 and BA5 variants so that we have an additional layer of protection as we go, not only into indoors, but the cold and flu season,” said Dr. Donna Milavetz the executive medical director for Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield.
This fall, doctors like Milavetz recommend a double dip — rather double prick — of vaccines; both the COVID booster and flu vaccine.
“Yes, it’s okay to get both. Just one in each arm,” Milavetz said.
Milavetz, along with other experts expect higher flu numbers this year after two years of masks and social distancing.
“What’s really interesting is that for the past two years our flu rates have been lower and mostly that’s because all of us have been masked,” she said. “But now that the mask mandates have been lifted, we are going to see more flu, or influenza, this year. So, this really is the year to get that influenza vaccine.”
When it comes to the COVID booster, Pfizer’s updated booster is available for anyone 12 years and older while Moderna is for anyone 18 and older.
Doctors say the booster is your best protection against the coronavirus this fall and winter.
“Just because you get a vaccine doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get the illness; it’s not 100% effective. However, what it does do; is it limits the severity of the illness as well as the risk of death 2:55 and that’s across the board for all vaccines,” Milavetz said.
Fall flu shot season is also a good time to think about other immunizations and boosters your family might have missed out on during the pandemic. There was a dramatic drop across the globe in childhood immunizations during the past two years.
“It’s really alarming — the dramatic decline in childhood immunizations that we’ve seen across the country,” Milavetz said. “It’s not just here in Oregon that we’re seeing a problem.”
Milavetz recommends parents to contact their primary care physician or reach out to a trusted doctor to get caught up.
“Getting in for the well-child check is really important to catch up on those really important infection control immunizations: like diphtheria and measles and mumps,” Milavetz said.
These check-ups are also an opportunity to talk about things like behavioral health and developmental milestones to make sure children are on the right track.
Those annual checkups aren’t just for kids either, grown-ups need wellness checks too. There are also immunizations that can come later in life.
“Starting at the age of 50, thinking about the shingles shot in addition to COVID and flu shot. If you are at risk, below the age of 65, the pneumonia vaccine is another one,” Milavetz said. “And then remember, every decade you need your tetanus booster.”
The best thing to do is arm yourself with credible information, according to Milavetz . Get in touch with your primary care doctor and make sure you and your family are up to date on your shots to keep you and your community healthy.