In September I wrote about the new Covid-19 booster and this season’s flu shot. (Covid & Flu Boosters Together or Separate?) At that time most health experts not connected with the White House recommended getting your Covid shot first, then waiting to get your flu shot until later. Now it’s time for both.
In typical public health official propaganda, White House Covid coordinator Ashish Jha on September 6th announced, “I really believe this is why God gave us two arms – one for the flu shot and the other one for the Covid shot.” I’m not sure where he found that insight in the Bible, but the timing of that advice was poor. With six months to go before the peak of the usual flu season, many other doctors advised waiting until at least November lest the flu shot effectiveness wane before the greatest risk of infection.
But now it’s November and the calculus has changed. In fact, the flu season is well under way in many states already. You’ll see from the accompanying CDC graphic that the flu season is quite active in a band beginning in Texas and moving east thru Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and even up into Virginia, Maryland, and New York City. If you live in one of these states, your peak exposure may be now.
Who should get the Covid booster?
The new Covid boosters are a bivalent vaccine, which means it was designed to protect against the original Covid virus strains as well as the newly emerging Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which appear to evade some of the protection provided by the original vaccines. The new shots are manufactured by Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna, the original makers of the Covid-19 vaccines using mRNA technology. There is also a newly authorized Novavax booster that targets the original strain of Covid-19 and is protein-based, which might appeal to some of the people who have been reluctant to receive the two other vaccines. The Novavax booster is authorized for people for whom and mRNA booster shot isn’t accessible or clinically appropriate, or people who prefer the Novavax shot.
Peter Loftus, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says the FDA expanded eligibility for the new boosters to children as young as 5 years old. In that age category, there is much less indication for vaccination at all, since the incidence of serious illness and death is extremely low. Parents should consult with their doctor before considering vaccination of their children.
White House officials said they plan to recommend that people get Covid-19 boosters once a year, similar to the flu vaccine, starting with these new shots.
This is no surprise to me; I fully expected we would be getting annual Covid shots when the pandemic became an endemic – just like the flu. Each year a new booster will be needed to protect against the latest variations in the original virus strain.
Anyone in the high-risk category for Covid should get the new booster. That means anyone over the age of 65, and anyone at any age who has heart disease, diabetes, pulmonary disease, or obesity. Those who have immunocompromised conditions should consult with their doctor first. This advice goes for the flu shot as well. If you’ve recently had Covid, you need to wait three months. If you’ve had the original Covid shots within the last two months, you’ll need to wait, also.
People six years and older may get an updated booster from a different manufacturer than their original primary series, as long as it’s the updated Pfizer or Moderna shot. There is some evidence the Moderna shot produces more antibodies, probably because the dose is higher than the Pfizer shot. My wife and I just got both the Moderna shot and the flu shot and we’re both doing fine. If you need the shots, now is the time to get them.