As we prepare for the holiday season, let’s be sure to prioritize getting our COVID booster and flu vaccine shots alongside planning for festive decorations and preparing gift lists. If you get your shots now, they will be maximally effective in time for that visit to grandma’s house or to family members whose weakened immune systems make them especially vulnerable to COVID’s devastating effects. It’s the right thing to do for them, and yourself!

We are pleased to see the decreasing hospitalization and death rates from COVID, even as we mourn the more than 1,390 friends and neighbors in D.C. that we have lost to this pandemic. Unfortunately, the coming months threaten a new winter surge resulting from several new variants of concern that are appearing around the world and that are making their way to the DC area. We know that many of us are worn out by the pandemic, but, the COVID virus is definitely not tired of killing humans as evidenced by the new BQ.1, BQ.1.1, BF.7, BA.4.6, BA.2.75 and BA.2.75.2 variants that are being tracked in the United States. The CDC recently estimated that BQ.1 and closely related BQ.1.1 currently make up 16.6% of the total circulating coronavirus variants in the United States, nearly doubling in one week.

The good news is that the new Bi-Valent booster seems to be effective against these new strains. More good news is that after approximately 1,840,485 COVID vaccine doses administered in Washington DC alone, and billions more worldwide, the vaccines have proven to be extraordinarily safe and are estimated to have saved more than 20 million lives worldwide in just their first year of use! We also see that those protected by vaccines and boosters have not just lower rates of death, but get milder illness and way lower occurrence of Long COVID if exposed to the virus!

Studies show us that the immune protection from prior vaccinations, and prior infection, decrease over time. As children return to school and have more exposure to COVID, it’s important that you increase your protection, and that of your children, with the new vaccine that protects from previous and current strains that are still with us, as well as those rapidly making their way to our country. 

If you contracted COVID more than three months ago or received a previous booster or primary COVID vaccine more than two months ago, the time is NOW to get the bivalent vaccine dose. And, just in time for the holidays, authorization has recently been given for children 5-11 to also receive the new booster, so check with your pediatrician. 

The bivalent booster is FREE and you can get the shot at local pharmacies, some physician offices and hospitals, and at DC Health’s COVID Service Centers. The Ward 8 location is 3640 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, and the Ward 7 location is 3929 Minnesota Avenue NE. We strongly suggest that while you are getting your COVID booster, roll up the other sleeve and get your flu shot at the same time!

For more information, go to coronavirus.dc.gov. Let’s work together to protect ourselves, our vulnerable family members and our beloved community. Let’s make a pledge not to give the gift of COVID this year!

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