Oct 28, 2022 - COVID

Push to get new COVID booster comes as Florida braces for flu season

Illustration of the first two boxes have a checkmark made of a syringe, and the third box has a large X in the middle.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

President Biden just got the updated COVID-19 booster shot, and urged Americans to do the same. But Tampa Bay isn't buying it.

What he's saying: "Now is the time to do it β€” by Halloween, if you can," Biden said Tuesday. "That's the best time. And that way you can be protected for the holidays."

Yes, but: Most people across the U.S. do not appear to be in a hurry to get the new boosters, a potentially worrying update as the winter months approach, Axios Raleigh's Zachery Eanes reports.

  • That's despite the fact that the vaccine β€” the first one to be tailor-made for a strain currently spreading, Omicron BA.5 β€” is producing a strong immune response.

Between the lines: The low turnout might be because people don't even know about it. Half of adults had heard little to nothing about the new boosters at the end of last month, a Kaiser Family Foundation report found.

Zoom in: Florida's health department is bracing for an above-average flu season combined with lingering COVID infections, WUSF reports.

  • Florida was the second worst state for adult flu vaccination coverage last year, according to CDC data, with 40.3% of the population ages 18 and older vaccinated.
  • Our COVID vaccination rate isn't much better. Less than 43% of people vaccinated have received their first booster and only 35.2% of those vaccinated at 50 or older got their second. The booster rate is 41.3% for vaccinated people 65 and older.

What they're saying: University of Florida epidemiology professor Dr. Cindy Prins spoke to WUSF about the possibility of a winter "twindemic," with people potentially coming down with COVID and the flu at the same time.

  • "It's not very common but that can happen, and it makes people fairly ill," she told the station. "The other thing that we worry about is you can have, let's say COVID, and be recovering, but then get flu and have that be a sort of a second hit to your system."
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