October 18, 2022

COVID-19: The latest information

Getting an updated booster dose helps protect you and your loved ones against severe illness. Testing helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

As the 2022-2023 flu season begins, it’s important to be aware of the risk that the flu virus and coronavirus infection present in our communities, especially for people who are not yet vaccinated. The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has surpassed 96 million, with more than 1 million fatalities.

While widespread COVID-19 vaccination and new treatments have eased some concerns, it’s still important to understand how you can protect yourself and others when traveling or gathering. One of the main ways is to get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are now available and recommended for all people 6 months and older — and are safe to get at the same time as a flu shot.

“We continue to strongly urge vaccination among those who have delayed it — including for children — and boosters for all who are eligible,” said Kaiser Permanente national infectious disease leader Paul Thottingal, MD. “Vaccination is essential to preventing serious illness and hospitalization — and to someday putting the pandemic behind us.”

Who can get a booster, and when should they get it?

While the COVID-19 primary vaccines and the original boosters (also known as monovalent boosters) have been effective at preventing people from getting severely sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that people age 5 years and older get an updated (or bivalent) COVID-19 booster for better protection against the most prevalent omicron variants. The variants currently causing the most cases in the U.S. are predicted to continue to circulate this fall and winter.

Which booster?

Who can get it?

When are you eligible?

Updated Pfizer booster

Anyone 5 or older

2 months after primary vaccination (2-shot series with Moderna, Pfizer, or Novavax or single-dose J&J*) or most recent original booster

Updated Moderna booster

Anyone 6 or older

2 months after primary vaccination (2-shot series with Moderna, Pfizer, or Novavax or single-dose J&J*) or most recent original booster

*People 18 or older should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and that this risk has not been seen with the 2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) or the Novavax vaccine. For more information, visit the CDC vaccine page.

“The updated COVID-19 boosters have been designed to better protect against the newer variants,” said Craig Robbins, MD, physician co-lead for Kaiser Permanente’s national COVID-19 vaccination program. “The newer versions of the booster strengthen the protection that has decreased since previous vaccination.”

For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccines and how to find an appointment in your area, visit kp.org/covidvaccine.

Testing and other safety measures prevent the spread

Taking a home antigen test is the quickest and easiest way to find out if you have COVID-19 and might infect others. Kaiser Permanente members can visit kp.org/covidtests to order no-cost tests, and to find Kaiser Permanente pharmacies and some retail pharmacies that offer no-cost tests.

“While vaccination remains the best way to combat severe illness from COVID-19, testing is the most important tool to prevent the spread of the virus right now,” said Dr. Robbins. “Testing quickly identifies someone who is infected so they can stay home and prevent further transmission.”

In addition to vaccination and testing, the CDC recommends continued mask use in public indoor spaces in communities where the COVID-19 community level is high. You should also still wear a mask if you wish to be cautious, if you are personally at high risk, or when you are with people at higher risk for severe illness.

It’s important to note that masks may also be required by federal, state, and local rules and regulations — including local business, school district, and workplace guidance. This includes high-risk areas such as health care settings and public transportation, and activities such as travel. Although wearing a mask is no longer required in many places, everyone, including people who are up to date with their vaccinations, should continue to take steps to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.

“We owe a deep debt of gratitude to our staff members, who have worked long, difficult hours in challenging conditions over the past 2 years,” said Dr. Thottingal. “We also deeply appreciate our members who have practiced medically proven behaviors over that time — masking, distancing, and hand-sanitizing — and who have served as examples to others in the communities we serve.”

We can all play a part in ending this pandemic and keeping ourselves, our families, and our communities healthy.

  • Everyone 6 months and older should get the COVID-19 vaccine, including an updated booster shot when you’re eligible, especially if you’re planning to travel or gather with friends and family.
  • Take a home antigen test if you have symptoms, think you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or will be traveling or gathering with others.
  • Comply with public health orders — including wearing a mask where it’s required.
  • Continue practicing healthy habits such as getting plenty of rest, eating healthy foods, exercising, and managing your stress.