DHEC recommends South Carolinians get flu shots, COVID boosters if they’re eligible

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Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 5:15 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With flu season now underway in the US and a newly updated COVID booster available, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is encouraging South Carolinians to get these shots if and when they are eligible.

The White House’s COVID coordinator recently recommended Americans get the new COVID booster — which protects against the original coronavirus strain and the newer, more dominant variants — before Halloween to maximize their protection over the holidays.

DHEC’s guidance is even simpler.

“Our recommendation is that people get vaccinated if they’re due for their vaccine, so if somebody had a COVID booster in the past, they can get this new bivalent booster two months after that,” DHEC Medical Consultant Dr. Jonathan Knoche said. “So if it’s been at least two months since you’ve had your booster, you can go ahead and get this bivalent booster anytime now.”

For now, the new booster is available to Americans 12 and older, and around 4.4 million Americans have already received it after it rolled out earlier this month, according to the CDC.

On Monday, Pfizer asked US regulators for the OK to offer the updated booster to 5-to-11-year-olds, starting the approval process for that group of children to receive it.

DHEC said the original booster that people may have gotten this time last year or earlier this year still offers good protection from severe disease, including hospitalization and death.

“Your memory B cells and T cells will still kick into gear and produce antibodies and protect you, but you still might get a mild illness without this newest booster if you’re otherwise somebody who is healthy,” Dr. Knoche said.

Dr. Knoche said they especially recommend older South Carolinians and those with immunocompromising conditions get the new booster if they are eligible, as they are more at risk for severe illness.

“Particularly as we head into the winter months and flu season and potential holiday travels,” he said.

Doctors say now is the time for Americans to get their annual flu shot too.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone older than six months and is safe for people who are pregnant women or wishing to become pregnant.

Flu activity in other parts of the world could be a warning for what it could be like in the US, where flu season is just getting started, Knoche said.

Australian public health officials reported the country is near the end of its worst flu season in five years.

“There’s some concern that this flu season is going to be a bad flu season, looking at what happened in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere,” Knoche said. “Usually what happens down there reflects what could happen here in the Northern Hemisphere.”

If people are eligible for both the new COVID booster and the flu shot, they can save a trip and get them at the same time, so long as the shots go in different arms.

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