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Health officials: Stay doubly protected with COVID-19 booster, flu shot

Most adults who received their initial COVID-19 vaccinations will be eligible for a booster dose in the coming weeks.

CHICAGO — During a COVID-19 update Tuesday morning, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker and Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngnozi Ezike's message for Illinoisans, especially those 65 and older, was clear: Get your COVID-19 booster and flu shots.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported nearly 1.7 million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and 1,327 new daily cases Monday, down from a recent Sept. 1 peak of 5,178 new cases.

But with the holiday season and indoor social gatherings on the horizon, preventative COVID-19 measures like social distancing, masking and vaccination will be crucial in keeping this downward trend intact.

The Centers of Disease Control and Protection currently advises Pfizer vaccines recipients 65+ and those 18+ at a higher risk for contracting the virus to get a booster shot 6 months after their second shot, as vaccine effectiveness may decrease over time.

An FDA advisory board met last week to discuss the usage of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters, and an authorization for the boosters was expected to come soon.

"While the vaccine continues to offer protection to everyone," Ezike said, "the overwhelming majority of the hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID after being fully vaccinated have occurred in those over the age of 65." 

According to the CDC, severe risk of illness due to COVID-19 increases with age, and those living or working in close proximity to one another in occupational, institutional or residential settings, such as long-term care facilities, are also at a higher risk of infection. 

Booster shots, the CDC said, have been shown to increase immune response and improve protection against the virus, including the highly contagious Delta variant.

Currently, 1.5 million Illinoisans are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot and millions more set to become eligible in the coming weeks upon CDC recommendation, according to a Tuesday news release from Pritzker's office.

People eligible for their booster dose do not have to go to the location of their initial dosage, Ezike said, but you should bring your vaccine card with you.

While you're registering for your initial or booster COVID-19 vaccines, make sure to arrange for your flu shot, too. Ezike said a separate appointment for a flu shot isn't needed, as it is safe to get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

"Flu season is also upon us," she said, "and we want to make sure you are doubly protected."

RELATED: When and where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Make your initial COVID-19 vaccination appointment or create a booster plan by visiting vaccines.gov.