Santa Clara County Public Health Department encourages residents to double down on winter protection with COVID and flu shots

Both the new bivalent booster and the flu vaccine help keep defenses high and prevent serious health problems
Photo Courtesy of County of Santa Clara Public Health Department

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

The pandemic is not over and as winter approaches, it is critical that the community be prepared and protected against not only COVID-19, but the flu as well. Even if someone got the initial COVID shot, or any number of boosters, now is the time to get the updated booster.

Known as the bivalent booster, this new vaccine provides even more protection against COVID, especially the omicron variant of the virus.

Both this vaccine and the flu shot are important defenses this season and beyond, both can be given at the same time, and both are safe. The omicron booster is available to anyone over the age of 5. It is especially important for people over 50 to stay up-to-date on their vaccinations in order to stay out of the hospital. It is also important to get vaccinated against the flu. Anyone older than 6 months can receive it.

Recently, a Public Health representative, Diana Dávila, answered some questions about the new booster vaccine and the flu vaccine, from what it is to why it is important to receive it as soon as possible to avoid serious illness or “long COVID”.

More information and the appointment schedule available at

To start with, could you tell us about this updated COVID booster? We have already had the boosters, why do we need this other one?

Yes of course. The COVID booster, also known as the omicron booster or the bivalent booster, is just that. It is an updated booster. It fights not only the omicron variant, which spreads very easily and which many people may have already heard about, but it also protects you from the original strain of COVID  of 2020. So it’s like a two for one protection.

And if someone has already coverage, why should they get this vaccine?

Well, COVID is still spreading in the community, making many people sick every day. Even if you got a booster dose a few months ago or even if you have had COVID in the past, you may not be well protected. So the omicron booster dose helps us stay healthy, even as the virus continues to change.

The Department of Public Health is telling people not to wait to get this vaccine. Why should people get this updated booster now?

Yes of course. As the virus continues to change and adapt, so must we. Just as many of us have adapted to keep our families safe, we must also adapt for the future.

The best thing we can do to protect ourselves is to stay up to date with vaccinations, and keeping up on boosters will keep us safe, and well out of the hospital, which is the most important thing.

Thanks. And this is especially important for people over 50 or 65 years?

Yes, older adults are more likely to be hospitalized or get very sick from COVID, and the good news is that vaccines are the best prevention. The holidays are approaching and it’s all about staying out of the hospital so you can spend time with family, friends, and grandkids.

And could you tell us a bit about prolonged COVID? What is it and why is it important to address it?

Well, prolonged COVID, also known as “Long COVID” or long-term COVID, does not refer to the duration of the pandemic, but rather has to do with the long-term or persistent effects after being infected with the virus. Long-term COVID is a chronic illness that can last for months or years, with symptoms including severe fatigue, shortness of breath, and even mental confusion.

But well, not everyone who contracts COVID has had prolonged COVID, but people who are not vaccinated against COVID, and become infected, may be at higher risk of developing it in the future. So it is extremely important that they are up to date with their vaccinations to prevent this.

Speaking of vaccines, now is the time for people to get vaccinated against the flu, right?

That’s how it is. The flu or influenza is not the same as COVID and it is not a common cold either. It is a serious illness that can cause severe body aches and fever and you might even end up in the hospital. Although some symptoms may be similar to COVID, such as fever, cough, and fatigue, the flu is caused by a different virus than COVID.

So the COVID vaccine and booster do not provide protection against the flu and the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID. However, you can get both vaccines at the same time from your doctor or at any local pharmacy.

And not everyone has a doctor or health insurance. Where can the community go to get vaccinated against the flu, and receive the COVID booster?

If you don’t have a doctor, you can call 2-1-1 for information or find a walk-in clinic at Local pharmacies also already have both vaccines available and it is completely safe to receive the flu shot and the omicron booster dose at the same time.

I also want to add that the immigration or insurance status does not affect eligibility for the vaccine and no one will ask you about your immigration status when you go to get those vaccinations.

Any other information you would like to share?

The only thing I would add is that as the virus continues to change and adapt, so must we. And it’s important to get this updated booster dose of COVID now to increase our defenses and keep us protected from serious illness.

It is also important to get the flu shot every year. And I repeat, the holidays are approaching and it is extremely important that we can be protected as a family, not only for us, but for them.