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It’s vaccination season: How important is getting both the updated COVID-19 and flu vaccines this season?

After the CDC announced the rollout of a new COVID-19 vaccine targeting the latest variant, health experts say COVID-19 vaccines are being treated similar to the flu vaccine.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter
Vaccine availability at clinics will be announced soon.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday the emergency authorization of a new COVID-19 vaccine to curb the spread of EG.5, the new dominant COVID-19 variant in the United States. 

The vaccine approved for emergency authorization is manufactured by pharmaceutical company Novavax, with updated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna available for use. 

Unlike previous vaccines, the updated COVID-19 vaccines are monovalent, which means the vaccines only provide protection against the most recent strain of COVID-19.

Rebecca Wurtz, health policy professor at the University of Minnesota, said vaccine manufacturers may evaluate the modification of vaccines targeting the most current COVID-19 variant. 

“It’s not bivalent, which is the way that the vaccine has been since early 2022 until now,” Wurtz said. “It’s modified to be more active against the most recent strains.”

President Joe Biden announced the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11. In the United States, the average number of daily COVID-19 hospital admissions this year is above 4,500, with an average of 36 daily hospital admissions in Minnesota. 

The updated COVID-19 vaccine comes at a time when people will be getting their annual flu shot. Wurtz said COVID-19 will be treated as a disease similar to the flu, in which the disease will become part of ordinary life but does not limit itself as a seasonal illness like the flu.

“The flu vaccine is different every year because the flu changes every year. COVID changes every year, but it is not a seasonal infection,” Wurtz said. “We’re most likely going to have to get a COVID shot every six months or so, because that’s about how long immunity to the infection lasts.” 

Michelle Trumpy, director of public health at Boynton Health, said people can get the flu and updated COVID-19 vaccines simultaneously. 

“Vaccination remains the best protection against serious illness,” Trumpy said. “They’re a really important thing people can do for themselves and their community.” 

Boynton Health recommends all students and staff follow CDC guidelines surrounding the flu and COVID-19. The updated COVID-19 vaccine will be available at Boynton Health in mid-October, but students who wish to get it sooner can go to a nearby clinic. To check vaccine availability in clinics, students can visit

“Once we have it in stock, we will update our website, sending an email to students and having a tile on MyU about it,” Trumpy said. 

James Lin, a third-year management information systems student, said he is not too concerned about the new COVID-19 variant and might not get the updated vaccine unless his friends get it. 

“Last time I heard about COVID, it was downgraded to a flu-level threat,” Lin said. “It really depends on the individual and how they view the flu, and I imagine that how they view COVID should be a reflection of that.” 

Lin said the decision of whether to get the updated vaccine depends on conversations with his friends. 

“If no one else is getting the vaccine, then I don’t see a need to get it. If I talk to my friends and they say, ‘James, are you on the vaccine yet,’ then I’m going to get the vaccine,” Lin said. “Most of my peers and friends have a decreased awareness of COVID than last year or the year before.” 

Wurtz said the best way for students to protect themselves against serious illnesses is to receive updated flu and COVID-19 vaccines, wash hands before entering big crowds and be thoughtful about protecting others, especially older adults. 

If students have symptoms of a respiratory illness such as COVID-19 or the flu, Wurtz recommends staying at home for up to 10 days after exposure. 

“We may not know if it’s COVID, the flu, RSV or something else. Wearing a mask yourself, especially just a surgical mask, doesn’t necessarily protect the people around you,” Wurtz said. “It’s better to stay home for 5-10 days after and to avoid giving your infection to somebody else.” 

Boynton Health continues to provide COVID-19 and flu testing at their Gopher Quick Clinic and take-home tests are available for purchase at its pharmacy. Students can also get eight free COVID-19 tests from the Minnesota Department of Health and at front desks at University-owned housing. 

“People are absolutely getting their flu vaccine,” Trumpy said. “We’ve had several large vaccination clinics and we’ve already vaccinated a thousand people against the flu this season.”

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