Health experts recommend updated COVID booster

Bivalent booster protects body against original COVID strain, omicron variants

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — Tennessee health officials are encouraging residents to receive their updated COVID-19 booster, as coronavirus and flu cases continue to rise.

With both colder temperatures and time spent with family coming to Tennessee for the holidays, medical experts say the new boosters are “critical” toward protecting yourself and others from “new surges of COVID-19 infections.”

Medical Director Dr. William Schaffner of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says the booster has been updated similarly to how flu vaccines are updated every year.

The latest booster is bivalent, meaning it protects against the original strain of COVID, as well as omicron and omicron subvariant strains.

“What this does is actually boost, increase your immune protection — particularly against [an] illness serious enough to put you into the hospital,” Schaffner said. “It ought to carry that protection through the winter season.”

Both Schaffner and local Pharmacist Jake Standefer encourage those with weakened immune systems to return to wearing masks and social distancing, should they find themselves in the holiday crowds.

Standefer says it will provide extra protection — something common to maintain every year as winter approaches.

“It’s cold and flu season,” Standefer said. “So with that, people’s immune systems tend to get a little bit weaker during this time — that puts them at increased risk of infection. So [we’re] just doing everything we can to try to stay healthy. Obviously, getting a vaccine and trying to get some protection from COVID is a good idea.”

Schaffner says he understands the fear that some may still have surrounding COVID-19 vaccines.

However, he wants to reassure Tennesseans that while the concerns are common, the newest booster is here to only benefit your health.

“Talk to your local doctor,” Standefer said. “They’re there for you — have that conversation. We hope that you’re reassured and comfortable with the notion that this is a good thing for you, your family and, indeed, for your whole community.”

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