As the weather changes and families begin to spend more time indoors, the risk of illness increases with the changing seasons, and it’s important that parents and children continue to take precautions to protect against getting sick, says Dr. Ross Newman, a pediatrician at Eugene Pediatric Associates.

One safety step to consider is the bivalent COVID booster shot, the most up to date COVID-19 vaccine. It targets not only the original strain of the virus, but also the circulating BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron variant. BA.5 accounts for approximately 80% of COVID cases in the United States, reports the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

The bivalent booster is currently authorized for anyone 5 years and older and is now available to patients at Eugene Pediatrics, as well as at other medical clinics and pharmacies.

How does the booster work? Is it safe?
Moderna and Pfizer’s bivalent boosters combine the original COVID-19 vaccine, which targeted the spike protein on the surface of the virus, plus a reformulation that targets the mutated spike protein found on the BA.4 and BA.5 versions of the omicron variant.

Overall, COVID-19 vaccines have been safely administered to hundreds of millions of children and adults and have proven to be very safe and effective at not only preventing COVID infection but also preventing serious symptoms if infected.

If you or your child is due for a COVID booster and the primary series of vaccinations has been completed, then talk with you doctor about getting the bivalent COVID vaccine to protect you and your family from the current circulating strains, Dr. Newman advises.

Best practices to avoid illness
With COVID-19 cases expected to surge again this fall and winter, in addition to staying updated with vaccines, Dr. Newman reminds families that it’s always good to follow these safety steps to avoid illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands frequently, all the way to the elbows.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Change clothes after being around a lot of people, such as school and work – dirty clothes may carry viruses and bacteria.
  • Stay home when sick and wear a mask around others.