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MADISON, Wis. – As the respiratory illness season begins, UW Health is encouraging everyone to get the latest influenza and updated COVID-19 vaccines to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Both vaccines are now available at UW Health, and patients can schedule their appointments via MyChart or by calling their primary care clinic. Non-UW Health patients can find the shots at local pharmacies or by contacting their primary care providers.
UW Health patients in the Madison area can also get both shots at the UW Health John Wall Drive Thru Clinic, located at 3819 John Wall Drive. Any patient 5 years and older can receive the vaccines while in their vehicle at this location. Younger patients will need to receive vaccines at a traditional clinic visit. In addition to COVID-19 and influenza vaccines, other routine vaccines for children and adults are available at this location. Appointments should be scheduled but are not necessary. The John Wall Drive Thru Clinic is open seven days a week, 7:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Getting vaccinated does not mean a person cannot catch a respiratory virus, but if they do, it protects an individual from potentially developing severe symptoms and reduces the risk of hospitalization or death, according to Dr. Jim Conway, medical director, UW Health Immunization Program, and an infectious disease physician with UW Health Kids.
“By getting vaccinated you decrease your chances of getting infected, or, if you do get infected, it makes your life easier with a milder case,” said Conway, who also is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Today is not too soon to schedule your appointment and it is never too late in the season to get the protection given by these vaccines. Everyone doing their part helps keep the community healthy.”
The updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older, regardless of previous vaccinations or infections, he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you had a previous booster series, no vaccines or had a previous infection, you should definitely get the updated COVID-19 vaccine,” Conway said.
Anyone 6 months of age or older can get the latest influenza vaccine each year as well. Some individuals who are immunocompromised might need two doses of the updated COVID-19 vaccine. Older individuals should receive one of the higher potency influenza vaccines, he said.
COVID-19 vaccines are no longer provided free of charge from the federal government. A patient’s insurance will be billed for the vaccines. Most insurers will cover vaccine fees, but some do not. Before scheduling a visit, patients should call the customer service number listed on their insurance card to find out if their plan covers these fees. Conway also recommends visiting www.vaccines.gov for more information on vaccine coverage.