The second round of COVID-19 booster shots is now recommended for the general public as are seasonal flu shots.
Both vaccines are available at local health department locations on a walk-in basis, and patients can receive the two vaccines during the same appointment.
Acting Lord Fairfax Health Director Dr. Charles Devine III recently received his booster shot and flu vaccine in the same appointment.
“I received a new bivalent COVID booster in my right arm, and a flu shot in my left arm,” he wrote in a Wednesday email.
He didn’t recall any adverse effects, “Just the expected mild soreness at the injection sites.”
Doctors’ offices and pharmacies also have the booster available for patients, although some locations might still be waiting on the flu shot.
Anyone 12 and older can receive the COVID-19 booster at least two months after their most recent COVID shot — either the second of the two-dose mRNA primary series or an mRNA booster. Those with serious medical conditions may be eligible sooner and should check with their primary care physician for further guidance.
“Anyone aged 12 to 17 years old can get a Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster while anyone aged 18 years and older can get either a Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster or a Moderna bivalent booster,” the Lord Fairfax Health District said in a recent email to The Daily.
The Lord Fairfax district covers Winchester and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren.
Furthermore, the Virginia Department of Health stresses that people 65 or older or those who have chronic diseases or a severely weakened immune system should get the bivalent booster sooner rather than later if they’re eligible.
“These people are the ones most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” the email said.
The recent recommendations come as the summer spike in COVID cases has been gradually waning.
On Thursday, Virginia announced 1,675 new COVID cases, and the local health district reported 40 new cases, according to the VDH’s COVID dashboard at vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.
This was significantly lower than recent local spikes of 119 new cases on Sept. 9 and 106 on Sept. 13. During the summer-long rise in cases, the peak was 155 new daily cases added on Aug. 30.
Despite the recent spikes, local cases have been trending down since late August. On Sept. 8, the day before one of the largest recent spikes, the health district reported only 12 new cases, the lowest single-day report since the district reported a negative daily case count on May 2.
“Vaccination and staying up to date on all your vaccinations is the best, most effective and safest way to avoid developing a case of COVID-19,” the health district says. “Note that Novavax is an alternative vaccine using more familiar vaccine technology for use by adults and adolescents age 12-17 for those who don't want to use the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines.”
Walk-in appointments at local Health Department locations are from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Residents are encouraged to visit vaccines.gov to find pharmacies offering COVID-19 vaccinations.
The bivalent boosters specifically target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron variant. These subvariants are causing more than 90% of all COVID-19 infections around the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Getting your bivalent booster and your flu shot at the time will provide strong protection from these viruses and help prevent severe illness, hospitalization and possible death,” the VDH says. “Both vaccines reach their peak effectiveness two weeks after administration.”