Have you gotten your updated COVID booster? State data shows likely not

Fall is in full swing now, and doctors say it's time for people to roll up their sleeves and get the updated COVID-19 booster shot.

"The first thing to recognize is that this one is different. It's bivalent. By that, we mean it's got two different vaccine strains represented in it. It's got the original Wuhan strain, and it's got strains like the ones that are circulating in the United States right now: the BA4 and BA5," said Dr. Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialist at Allina Health.

The bivalent booster shot is designed to target the most common Omicron strains. People are eligible for the updated booster shots if it’s been at least three months since they had the COVID-19 infection and at least two months since their last standard COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's clearly a good idea to get vaccinated with something that's like the new strains, the ones that are circulating now," Rhame said.

At Allina Health clinics, doctors recommend patients get a flu shot and COVID booster at the same time, one in each arm.

"Our bodies are designed to be immunized against a lot of different things," Rhame said.

But the rollout of the updated booster shots has been slow so far, both in Minnesota and across the country.

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows 3.9 percent of percent of people 12 and older are up to date on their shots, compared to 79 percent who’ve had at least one vaccine dose and 75.2 percent who've completed a vaccine series.

Doctors say they can't predict what levels of infection the fall and winter will bring, and they want Minnesotans to be protected against serious illness.

"The COVID virus doesn't care if we're tired of it or not. It's there. We have over 100,000 people dying of COVID in this country," Rhame said.

Rhame said staying up-to-date on COVID-19 shots is especially important for people who are 65 and older, have a chronic illness or live with someone who is vulnerable.