As the fall and winter months approach, health care leaders are urging community members to protect themselves – and their loved ones – by keeping up with vaccinations. Choosing to receive an annual flu shot and a COVID-19 booster shot or vaccine can help protect our communities.
“The past two years have shown us the important role that immunizations play in helping to protect each other,” said Dr. Mark Cockley, ThedaCare’s chief medical officer. “Vaccinations, especially against influenza and COVID-19, can significantly reduce the risk of developing a serious illness or transmitting the infection to a loved one.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting a flu shot in September or October. The flu is usually active between October and April each year, and peaks between December and February. According to Dr. Coakley, the months of September and October are the good times to get vaccinated, as it takes two weeks for the vaccine to provide immunity. However, as long as the influenza virus is spreading, those who have not yet been vaccinated can do so until January.
“It is important to prepare for the upcoming flu season as there is the potential to have both influenza and COVID-19 simultaneously,” said Dr. Cockley. In addition, when the use of masks was more widespread, it helped reduce cases of influenza. This season, with less concealment in place, there will likely be less protection, leading to greater spread of influenza and COVID-19.”
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older get an annual flu shot. The vaccine is especially important for those at risk of serious illness. This includes the elderly, pregnant women, young children, those with weak immune systems, chronic diseases such as diabetes, lung disease, high blood pressure, and those undergoing cancer treatment.
Continue to be protected from COVID
In addition to receiving a flu shot, community members should plan to get support against COVID-19. People 12 years of age or older are now eligible to receive updated COVID-19 boosters (also known as bivalent boosters).
“It is recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older be vaccinated to protect against COVID-19,” Dr. Cockley said. “If you, your child, or a loved one has not received an initial series of COVID-19 vaccines, it still pays to do so.”
The updated boosters have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are the first Omicron-specific vaccines to be made available in the United States. They target the original strain of COVID-19, as well as Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5. The highly contagious BA.5 subagent Omicron is the dominant strain of COVID-19, making up about 90% of cases nationally.
Refresher boosters are recommended as a single (1) dose for people 12 years of age or older who have received their initial series of COVID-19 vaccines and have not received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the past two months. Persons 12 years of age or older are eligible for the updated Pfizer COVID-19 booster, and those age 18 or older are eligible for the updated Moderna COVID-19 booster. In these age groups, these reinforcements replace the original reinforcers. Pfizer and Moderna boosters can be administered after any initial series, including Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or Novavax.
Children 5-11 years old remain eligible for the original COVID-19 booster, which provides protection against the original strain of COVID-19. This age group is expected to be eligible for updated boosters in the coming months.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children under the age of five should get an initial, sequential dose of the vaccine.
“We all need to be very proactive about staying as healthy as possible to stave off influenza and COVID-19, and prevent complications from either disease,” Dr. Cockley said. “Getting a flu and COVID booster vaccine is an important part of our health plan.”
Make an appointment to get your flu shot and COVID Booster
Health experts point out that people can safely get their COVID-19 and other vaccines at the same time, including the annual flu shot. ThedaCare now makes it easier for patients to schedule immunizations by providing them at most primary care facilities.
ThedaCare patients and community members can schedule flu vaccinations and COVID promotion materials online. Log in to MyThedaCare/MyChart, select Schedule a visit, then select Vaccines.
ThedaCare will also hold a COVID booster clinic on Saturday, October 1, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on the second floor of ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton Gateway, 3925 N. Gateway Drive, Appleton, WI 54913. COVID boosters will be available In the free clinic. You do not need to be a ThedaCare patient to receive the vaccine. There will be 250 appointments available. Visits without prior reservation are welcome, but if you want to pre-register, you can do so at https://vaccinate.wi.gov. Advance registration is highly recommended.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeastern and Central Wisconsin. The organization provides care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs nearly 7,000 healthcare professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in population health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique best lives. ThedaCare also works with local communities to understand needs, find solutions together, and encourage health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, giving professionals the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on patient care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a Level II Trauma Center, comprehensive cancer treatment, and heart and stroke programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should contact Cassandra Wallace, PR and Media Consultant at 920.442.0328 or ThedaCare Medical Center-Neenah Keypad at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.
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