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With the flu season just around the corner and COVID-19 remaining an ongoing threat to our community, it is important for you to protect yourself and those you love by staying informed.

Over the last several months, California has made great progress in our fight against COVID-19. In fact, California currently has the lowest COVID-19 case rate in the nation. Much of this is due to our state’s high vaccination rate. More than 82% of Californians aged 12 and older have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to join the millions of individuals already vaccinated. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect ourselves, our community, and the wisdom of our elders.

COVID-19 vaccinations are safe, effective, free, and widely available to individuals ages 12 and older. In the coming weeks, vaccinations will also be available for younger children ages 5 and up. Just last week, the CDC endorsed giving booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 65 and older, long-term care facility residents and those aged 50-64 with underlying medical conditions. People aged 18-49 years with underlying medical conditions and those with an increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of an occupational or institutional setting may also receive a Pfizer booster shot.   

What does this all mean for you? In today’s rapidly changing environment, it is normal to have questions. At Chapa-De, our team is here to provide our patients with helpful information and education so that they can feel confident in making well-informed health decisions.

Below are some of the most frequently asked flu and COVID-19 related questions we are hearing from our patients. Let’s work together to stay informed and healthy!  

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Millions of people throughout the country have now safely received the COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccinations have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in history. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and free.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine prevent serious illness and death?

The COVID-19 vaccinations are highly effective in preventing serious disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Nearly all COVID-19 related deaths are occurring among the unvaccinated. This is a clear indication of how effective the vaccinations are.

Why vaccinate your child against COVID-19?

Vaccination provides the best opportunity to protect your child from COVID-19. The vaccine not only prevents kids from getting COVID-19, but it also helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. Cases of COVID-19 are increasing among children and the delta variant appears to be playing a role in this. Getting children vaccinated for COVID-19 can help protect the community and stop other variants from emerging.

What is the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) is identical to the first two doses. It can help protect people with weakened immune systems who did not have a strong enough response to the first two doses of the vaccine. The FDA has authorized, and the CDC recommends, that those with certain medical conditions that suppress the immune system get a third dose of the same brand of the COVID-19 vaccine that they initially received.

What is the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?

A COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine given after the protection provided by the original shot(s) has begun to decrease over time. The booster is designed to help people maintain their level of immunity for longer.

Who should receive a COVID-19 booster shoot?

The CDC recommends booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 65 and older, long-term care facility residents and those aged 50-64 with underlying medical conditions. People aged 18-49 years with underlying medical conditions and those with an increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of an occupational or institutional setting may also receive a Pfizer booster shot and should consider talking with their medical provider about the costs and benefits.

This is specific to individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine as their primary vaccine series. Booster shots should be administered at least 6 months after an individual’s primary vaccine series.

When will Moderna or Janssen/Johnson & Johnson booster shots be available?

The FDA and CDC will continue to evaluate data over the coming weeks and make determinations for additional populations going forward, including people who received the COVID-19 Moderna or Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Why are booster shots only available for certain groups of individuals?

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices struggled with the decision to approve boosters for everyone 18 and up. Fortunately, data has shown that the COVID-19 vaccine provides good protection for those under 65 years of age. To date, the booster dose is reserved for our most vulnerable populations.   

What should we expect for the coming flu season?

We experienced a mild flu season last year due to an increase in flu vaccinations, masking, and social distancing. That may change this flu season. The severity of this year’s flu season will depend largely on how many people receive the flu shot. As we head into our winter cold and flu seasons, we can prevent disease and death from disease by getting the flu shot and masking.

Who should get a flu shot this season?

The flu can be serious, especially for seniors and children. Getting an annual flu shot is the single most effective way to protect yourself from the flu. Everyone six months and older should get the flu shot, with rare exceptions.

When should I get a flu shot?

If possible, we recommend getting the flu shot by the end of October. While flu shots are available through April, it is important to get vaccinated before the flu virus begins to spread throughout the community. Flu season usually peaks in January and February.

Is it safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time?

Yes, it is safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same time. The COVID-19 vaccine should not interfere in any way with the flu shot and vice versa.

How can I get my COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot today?

COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots are available at Chapa-De for established patients.

If you are not a Chapa-De patient and would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, we encourage you to visit myturn.ca.gov to locate a walk-in clinic or schedule a free vaccination appointment. Many local pharmacies offer both the COVID-19 vaccination and flu shots for free.

If you still have concerns, please contact your medical provider for more information.

Chapa-De operates two community health centers in Auburn and Grass Valley. For more information, please visit chapa-de.org.

Dr. Alinea Stevens is the Medical Director and a Physician at Chapa-De Indian Health. She provides compassionate, high-quality adult and pediatric primary care to all people, regardless of their financial situation. Her professional interests include Prenatal Care, Pediatrics and Substance Use services.