Autumn immunizations — What? Why? When? Where? How?

Submitted by San Juan County.

Once again, our core message is simple—you should get your influenza and COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s some additional information to help.

The COVID-19 bivalent vaccine—what is it and why should I get it?

The new bivalent COVID-19 boosters contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of the COVID-19 virus; one from the original and one from the lineages of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variant. The added protection against BA.4 and BA.5 means that they help to restore protection that has waned since your previous dose of vaccine and target currently circulating variants that are more contagious and immune-evading.

Booster doses help to provide continued protection against severe disease and death. While the monovalent (or “original”) doses are still very effective at protecting us, there will be a drop in protection over time. Receiving the new updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine will provide additional protection against the virus for you and your family. With seasonal cold and flu season is upon us, your local public health officials recommend getting your booster, continuing to test when you feel ill or before you attend a gathering, staying home when you are sick, and masking in crowded indoor spaces. Protect yourself and your loved ones!

When should I get the COVID-19 bivalent vaccine? And, once I’m ready, where and how can I get one?

Currently, anyone five years of age and older who has had their primary 2-dose series is eligible for a single bivalent booster dose, as long as it has been at least two months since their last COVID vaccine. At this time, we do not have information on when children under the age of five years will be eligible to receive a bivalent booster.

If you’re eligible to get a bivalent booster and are ready to do so, there are several options and opportunities for you to receive the vaccine! We have COVID-19 booster clinics planned for November 7th and 8th on San Juan, 9th on Orcas, and 10th on Lopez—please check our COVID vaccine information page for updates, details, and registration information: For our residents on Shaw, Decatur, and Waldron, please contact our office at 360-378-4474. If you can’t make it to one of our scheduled clinics or need the booster sooner, please continue to monitor our webpage for future opportunities, contact your physician’s office or pharmacy, or check for other providers online:

Hold on… I still haven’t gotten my first dose yet/completed my primary series. Can I still get those vaccines?

Yes! Health & Community Services will continue to offer clinics for primary series COVID-19 vaccinations (with the monovalent or “original” vaccines). You can check for future clinics on our website here or call our office at 360-378-4474 to get more information. Getting everyone (who is eligible) vaccinated with a primary series is still a top priority. COVID-19 remains the third leading cause of death in the US, and people who are vaccinated are significantly less likely to get seriously ill and die from COVID-19, compared to those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinations can also help prevent individuals from developing the long-COVID symptoms reported by up to 50% of those who become ill from COVID-19.

How about the influenza vaccine… Why should I get the seasonal flu vaccine?

Please note that the COVID-19 vaccines will NOT protect you from the influenza virus. You will still need to get a flu vaccine to be protected from influenza. It is safe to get the bivalent booster and the flu vaccine at the same time if your vaccine provider offers both.

With that in mind, the best way to reduce your risk from seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications is to get a flu vaccine every year. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine, especially people who are at higher risk. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, can be life-saving in children, and may also protect those people around you (including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness).

When is the best time to get the flu vaccine?

October is usually the best time of year to get your flu shot, but it is important to know that vaccination after October can still provide good protection during the peak season of flu. You can find additional information about the flu vaccine on the CDC website:

If you are uninsured/underinsured or are a child under 19 years of age, please check our flu vaccine webpage ( for date/time, location, and registration information. If you have insurance that will cover the cost of the flu vaccine, please contact your medical provider or local pharmacy to schedule a flu vaccine appointment.