Five Common COVID-19 Questions Answered Heading into Fall

Author: Sarah Barber

"The only approved booster is the new bivalent COVID-19 booster that includes components of the original Alpha strain and Omicron BA.4 and BA.5.."


It’s officially fall! The air is turning cooler, the leaves are starting to change colors, and the kids are back-to-school. With the changing of the season also comes an increase in exposure to viruses and germs.

“As we enter fall and the kids get back to school, colds and other respiratory viruses ramp up, and then as we get into winter, influenza becomes prevalent,” said John Brooks MD, Chief Medical Officer for McLaren Healthcare.

“There is concern that flu will have significantly more impact this year, since we are getting back to normal and not masking in public. With very light flu seasons for the last two years,” said Dr. Brooks. “This increases the risk that this year will be considerably worse.”

While COVID-19 has been with us for two and a half years now, there are still many misconceptions about the virus and the vaccine. Dr. Brooks has answered some common COVID-19 questions.

1. Can you get the COVID-19 and flu booster shots at the same time?

“Adults and children may receive both the influenza vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine during the same visit,” said Dr. Brooks. “They are often given in different arms, or if on one arm, they need to be greater than an inch apart so that local reactions can be evaluated.”

Being able to get both vaccines in one visit makes it easy to get all vaccines up-to-date easily.

2. Does the COVID-19 booster shot protect you against new strains like BA.4 and BA.5?

According to the CDC, the updated COVID-19 booster adds Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components to the previous vaccine composition.

As of September 2022, the only approved booster is the new bivalent COVID-19 booster that includes components of the original Alpha strain and Omicron BA.4 and BA.5.

3. Is it a good idea to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster before traveling or attending an event with high exposure?

“For persons who are traveling, especially overseas, they should obtain a COVID-19 booster. It prevents severe illness and need for hospitalization for most,” said Dr. Brooks.

When considering getting a booster before traveling, schedule it one to two weeks before you go to ensure maximum benefit.

4. What are the symptoms to be on the lookout for with the new BA.4 and BA.5 variants?

“The current Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants of COVID-19 fortunately have been associated with less severe disease, but nearly 200 persons are still dying each day from this infection,” said Dr. Brooks. “Most people with COVID-19 have reported sore throat and some general flu like symptoms, but some develop shortness of breath, which requires immediate medical evaluation.”

5. When am I eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot?

The CDC outlines when you are eligible for booster shots, based on your age, if you are immunocompromised, and more. Visit this CDC webpage for more information on when you are eligible for your next vaccine.

In addition to being up to date with vaccines and boosters, don’t forget to use hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently when in public spaces to help prevent getting sick. Also, consider your risks, remembering that crowded spaces with limited air flow increase the risk of most respiratory illnesses. Being well rested and hydrated keeps immune function strong.

For more information, visit your primary care provider. To find a primary care provider who is accepting new patients at McLaren, click here.