September 23, 2022
Contact: Natalie Shelton
County health departments offer new COVID-19 bivalent boosters and flu shots
CDC recommends getting flu vaccine no later than Halloween
Updated COVID-19 booster vaccines are now available at health departments in District 4 Public Health, and residents also can receive a flu shot when they get the new booster.
District 4 health departments are located in Butts, Carroll, Coweta, Fayette, Heard, Henry, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup, and Upson counties.
The bivalent booster, or “omicron booster,” has replaced the original booster formulas for individuals 12 years of age and older. It targets two versions of the coronavirus: the original strain, and the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 that are currently circulating. The previous booster shot targeted only the original version of the virus.
The BA.5 omicron subvariant currently accounts for about 80 percent of COVID-19 infections in Georgia, with the BA.4 subvariant responsible for about 8 percent.
“It doesn’t matter how many boosters you’ve had so far, whether it’s none, one, or two,” said Amy Fenn, District 4’s Director of Nursing. “As long as you’ve had your primary COVID vaccines and are at least 12 years old, you can get the new bivalent booster if it’s been at least two months after your primary vaccines or last booster.”
Individuals may get the booster, manufactured by both Pfizer and Moderna, regardless of which primary series vaccine or original booster they previously received.
People 18 years of age and older can get either a Pfizer or Moderna bivalent booster dose, regardless of which vaccine they’ve previously received. Individuals ages 12-17 can only get the Pfizer bivalent booster dose.
Children under 12 years old should continue with primary COVID-19 vaccinations and original boosters. The original monovalent Pfizer booster is the only one recommended for children ages 5-11 and should be given at least five months after completing their original primary vaccine series.
Children ages 6 months to 5 years are not eligible for a booster, but it is recommended they receive the three-dose Pfizer primary series or two-dose Moderna primary series.
Preparing for flu season
The CDC recommends a flu shot for those 6 months of age and older and says the best time to get the vaccine is between now and mid-October—and by Halloween at the very latest.
It takes about two weeks to build immunity after vaccination, so that gives individuals maximum protection by Halloween and for indoor gatherings with family and friends during the holidays. If it’s been at least two months since a person’s last COVID-19 primary vaccine or booster, getting the new bivalent booster at the same time as the flu shot is a convenient way to prepare for what could be a severe season for the flu and respiratory illnesses in general, health experts say.
People may have less natural immunity this season because not as many were infected with influenza in 2020 and 2021 due to precautions taken to prevent COVID-19. In addition, the flu virus may be better equipped to circulate as life is now returning to fewer masks and more social interaction, especially in schools. The more individuals who get flu shots earlier, the less the virus will be able to spread.
Getting vaccines at the health department
District 4’s health departments offer COVID-19 vaccines and boosters with no out-of-pocket costs to individuals. If a patient has insurance, the health department may bill the company for administrative costs related to the vaccine.
The flu vaccine is covered by several health insurance plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Aetna, Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, United Healthcare, and others. Individuals will need to bring a Medicare or insurance card, if applicable.
For those without insurance, paying out-of-pocket, the cost for anyone ages 6 months to 18 years is $21.93, $30 for the regular flu vaccine for those 19 and older, and $65 for the high-dose flu vaccine for ages 65 and older.
Please call (800) 847-4262 to schedule an appointment to receive one or both vaccines. Though appointments are preferred, health departments accept walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccines only. Some locations may be able to administer the flu shot at the same time for walk-ins.