Dr. Rai talks new COVID booster, flu season

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 7:09 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - There’s a new tool to protect people against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to talk about the new booster shot and to look ahead to flu season.


“In a lot of ways it’s the same vaccination that many of us have received, that mRNA-based vaccine, so you think about how we describe that as the vaccine being a set of train cars and what we put on it is the information, that mRNA information, so now that information has been fine tuned. It actually has two sets of maps this time--one for Omicron BA.4 and the other for Omicron BA.5. That’s what we call bivalent, or two. So, half of the vaccine is covering one of the subvariants and half of it is covering the other. It’s unique in that sense, but it’s very much the same safety profile, at least we think, as the previous vaccines that most of us have received.

“It works the same way but it is protecting us against these new variants that we’ve seen across the world, the two most common that are infecting Americans right now are BA.4 and BA.5. So they really tailored this vaccine, designed it for what we’re seeing today.

“Right now we’re waiting on shipment so you’re probably looking at anywhere from a week to two weeks before it’s more commonly available. Who can get it? So the Pfizer vaccine anybody over the age of 12. The Moderna vaccine anybody over the age of 18. It’s important to wait two months since your last COVID vaccination. So if you just got your fourth booster, you can still get this, but you have to wait two months.


“Long COVID is real. Even if you’ve been in perfect health when you get COVID, it’s unlike other viruses we’ve seen. We’ve never seen viruses that generally have this long of symptoms or effects after. You mentioned hair loss. People in great shape can no longer exercise. People have continuous brain fog. This isn’t talking about weeks. We’re talking about months, over a year now for some people. Getting that booster--the best way to avoid long COVID is to not get COVID, and the best way to avoid getting COVID is having the appropriate vaccine for you, but also we see more long COVID symptoms in people who have had severe disease versus minor disease. We know the vaccine does a really good job at preventing you from getting COVID, especially these new tailored ones, and it does even better job at preventing severe disease. Really hoping that everyone considers the booster, not just because COVID can be lethal--it’s less lethal now--but really looking at some of the long-term symptoms people get and trying to keep people healthy.”


“Sometimes we predict our flu season on what happens in other parts of the world. Different hemisphere, opposite seasons as us--you mentioned Australia--it’s not always a perfect 1:1 correlation, but it definitely can happen. We saw a very strong, unfortunately, influenza season in that part of the world. So that makes us concerned about our portion of the world. Once again, we had two lighter flu seasons because people have been masking and washing their hands and staying home when they’re sick and doing all the things they’re supposed to be doing. We’re not going to see as much of that this year. So we could see a stronger influenza season. Getting influenza and COVID at the same time is an extreme concern for us in the medial profession. We really want to encourage people not only to get your bivalent vaccine but to also get your flu vaccine. You can get them at the same time. People may choose to separate it over a time period, but both of those should be coming over a matter of weeks.”