As the ever-evolving COVID-19 impacts continue, staying informed about the latest vaccine recommendations is crucial. Here's a simple breakdown of what you need to know.
Jill Foster, MD, is a pediatric infectious disease physician with University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians), and she says the latest recommendation is that everyone aged six months and older should get the COVID-19 vaccine as long as they haven't had one in the last four months.
For some of us, it's been about a year since our last booster shot. COVID-19 doesn't behave like the flu, instead, it's unpredictable. While the flu arrives predictably in the fall, COVID-19 can flare up anytime. “It's likely that we'll continue to receive COVID-19 boosters every fall in the near future,” says Dr. Foster.
If you've already received COVID-19 vaccines or boosters in the past and are unsure about getting another one, consider this: Vaccines have significantly reduced mortality rates. “If you really look at the data, the difference in mortality between people who got the vaccine versus those who didn't is huge,” Dr. Foster explains.
Even if vaccinated individuals can still get infected, they are less likely to end up in the hospital or succumb to the virus. Dr. Foster emphasizes this protection is crucial for those with weakened immune systems and older individuals.
She adds that if you're concerned about mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna, there's another option called Novavax. It's a more traditional type of vaccine and has recently been approved as a booster.
While getting your COVID-19 shot, it is important to remember to take other precautions. You may be exposed to sick individuals in crowded pharmacies, so wear your mask, practice social distancing and use hand sanitizer. “Just as you'd wear a raincoat when it's wet outside, don't rely solely on the vaccine for protection.”
If you feel unwell the day after your vaccine, Dr. Foster says that’s normal and indicates that your immune system is doing its job. “There are a lot of chemicals that your body makes, and one of them is interferon. That gets released when the body makes an immune reaction,” she explains, “It's a sign that your body is actively fighting off the infection, even if it doesn't feel pleasant.”
The University of Minnesota Medical School's wastewater dashboard monitors COVID-19 levels in wastewater, which can offer insights into the virus's prevalence in your community. If it's widespread in your area, Dr. Foster suggests wearing a mask, especially in poorly ventilated spaces with many people.
In addition to COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Foster emphasizes to make sure to get your flu vaccine. Pregnant women should also consider the RSV vaccine. Lastly, stay safe and look after yourselves! Keep an eye on evolving recommendations, get vaccinated and take necessary precautions to protect your health and the health of others.