With fall and lower temps ahead, the new COVID-19 booster is essential

Chicagoans, don’t allow COVID-19 fatigue to keep you from staying safe and healthy. Take precautions against the coronavirus and the flu.

SHARE With fall and lower temps ahead, the new COVID-19 booster is essential
Margaret LaRaviere receives a COVID-19 booster during an event on Sept. 9 hosted by the Chicago Department of Public Health at the Southwest Senior Center.

A woman receives a COVID-19 booster during an event on Sept. 9 hosted by the Chicago Department of Public Health at the Southwest Senior Center.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicagoans will start feeling hints of fall weather this week when temperatures go from the mid-80s on Tuesday and dip to the mid-60s by Thursday.

And as lower temperatures approach — to the dismay of many Chicago summer enthusiasts — more people will go from dining and meeting al fresco to staying warm indoors, increasing the chances of contracting COVID-19 and the flu.

It is imperative for Chicagoans to continue to take precautions. The best way for everyone to protect themselves, their workplaces and their social circles is to get the updated COVID-19 vaccine booster, recently approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“You are going to see that 99.9% of all of the cases of COVID right now are all these BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Sept. 6.

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“So getting the vaccine that is a perfect match is your best chance to not only protect yourself and your family and your community long-term against severe outcomes,” Arwady said, “but also hopefully to help us get ahead of the COVID virus looking to the winter.”

About the new vaccine

The new “bivalent” vaccine is a mix of two versions of the vaccine and boosts protection against the original coronavirus strain while also protecting against the more dominant BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants.

People who are 18 and older are eligible for the Moderna vaccine, while those 12 and up are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. The most recent data shows that 77% of Chicagoans have had their “primary series,” the initial number of doses of the vaccine a person needs, which means that about 1.8 million Chicagoans from ages 12 and up can get the updated vaccine right now.

Those who have not been vaccinated can get their primary series started and receive the updated booster in two months. Those who recently had COVID-19 are not required to wait. But the CDC says people may want to wait three months from their most recent infection, but no longer than that.

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The boosters should be available at the same places that already have been providing COVID-19 vaccines, such as doctors’ offices, health clinics and pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS.

Vaccine disparities continue

Nearly 200,000 Illinoisans had received the new COVID-19 booster shot as of Friday. But in Chicago, racial disparities persist: 65% of boosters administered have gone to white residents.

The Chicago Department of Public Health said it plans to reach out to areas considered pharmacy deserts and expects to host vaccination clinics where $50 gift cards may be offered as incentives. Family vaccination clinics will also take place at City Colleges of Chicago through November.

Updated vaccines will continue to be provided through “Protect Chicago at Home,” an at-home vaccination program that prioritizes seniors 65 and older, those who are homebound and residents who are in the city’s least-vaccinated ZIP codes.

In case there’s any doubt about the need to get the updated booster, remember the U.S. is recording about 62,000 new infections and 466 deaths daily. In Chicago, unvaccinated people have been more than three times at risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 and have about a six times higher risk of dying from COVID-19 complications compared to those who have been boosted.

“We lost a lot of Chicagoans who died, needlessly in my view, because they weren’t vaccinated. This gives us another opportunity to emphasize to folks COVID is still here, people are still dying every single day in Chicago and across the country,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at the Sept. 6 news conference with Arwady. “[T]his is not the flu. It is much more serious, it is much more contagious, and unfortunately, it’s much more deadly. So we’ve got to get people vaccinated.”

As the world heads into the third fall of the pandemic, Chicagoans can’t allow COVID-19 fatigue to keep them from staying safe and healthy. Get boosted, and get a flu shot, too.

To learn more, visit chicago.gov/covidvax.

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