Flu Shot? COVID-19 Booster? Get ’em Both, Expert Says
COVID-19 vaccinations. Flu shot. Another COVID-19 booster shot. Is it all too many shots? It could be for Granite Staters who aren't exactly running to get their shots.
State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan told WMUR that less than 10% of those eligible for the omicron-specific COVID booster shot have taken it so far.
The CDC recommends that anyone 12 or older who completed their COVID-19 primary series or received a booster dose at least two months ago get the updated booster. It is available at COVID-19 vaccination centers, including pharmacies and urgent care centers. Locations can be found at vaccines.nh.gov.
Martha Wassell, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital's Director of Infection Prevention, believes the public may be tired of the constant calls for vaccinations, but needs to get past the fatigue.
"I think what we come down to is that individuals are tired of going back to get vaccinated again. They believe that the severity of COVID is not worthy of vaccination at this point. And, to a lesser extent, I think there are some who have doubts related to the updated vaccine's efficacy or safety," Wassell told Seacoast Current.
COVID-19 is Still Present
While mask wearing has become the exception rather than the rule, and most people have no qualms about going to concerts and being with others in settings large and small, COVID-19 is still present and mutating into new variants. People are still being admitted into hospitals, although not at nearly the rates of the pandemic.
"Without the vaccinations, without the prevention of spread, we're setting ourselves up for additional variants and sub-variants down the road that we just don't know how they're going to respond. I would say at this point, we're in a position where the case severities are relatively low. But that doesn't mean that it's zero," Wassell said.
New Hampshire's weekly COVID-19 report showed 1,671 new positive COVID-19 test results between Thursday, September 29, and Wednesday, October 5. The number could be higher with home test results not being reported to the state. 37 people were hospitalized, with four deaths.
Wassell was recognized as a "COVID-19 Hero" by Wentworth-Douglass President & CEO Jeffrey Hughes at the Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner in April. She was acknowledged for her work encouraging those inside the hospital and outside to get the COVID-19 vaccination, and she strongly believes in community responsibility.
"We need to work together as a community to protect those who may not be able to mount a good response or may not be able to receive vaccinations for one reason or another," Wassell said. "So, it's not just about our own personal feelings of protection. It's about being a part of society and being responsible for others."
COVID-19 Booster and Flu Shots at the Same Time?
Chan recommends getting the booster and flu shot by the end of October as the weather takes a serious turn towards cold. Getting them together is okay, according to Wassell.
"You can get both on the same day. And actually, you should for reasons of simplicity. You're gonna be there anyway, your sleeve's gonna be rolled up anyway. Get both shots, one on each arm, and call it a day," Wassell said.
Post-shots, one could experience a low-grade fever and generally not feel well for 24 hours after either vaccine along with a sore arm.
If the flu season in the southern hemisphere is any indication, it will be a bad season for the United States. The number of cases went from under 1,000 cases last year to 225,000 this year, according to Wassell.
"Typically, what we experience is reflective of what they go through the season ahead of us. So I'm encouraging everyone to get their flu shot now, if you can. We're seeing a few pediatric influenza cases. And typically, when you start to see the pediatric cases, the adult cases follow soon thereafter," Wassell said.
Wassell admitted the flu vaccine is not perfect, but believes it's better than nothing.
"On a good year, we may get a good match and some strong efficacy. But studies do show that even with a mismatch and not a great efficient vaccine, that there is some protection and some mitigation of the severity of the disease in those who received the shot," Wassell said.
It's also a good idea to go back to the basic preventative measures that went into place during the COVID-19 pandemic, including hand washing, social distancing, and staying home if you feel unwell.