The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Health experts say new COVID-19 vaccine is increasingly similar to a flu shot

Health experts in Johnson County predict that COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more like influenza shots amid a rise in cases and hospitalizations.
Jeff Sigmund
A Pfizer vaccine is drawn up during a vaccination clinic at the Radisson Hotel Conference Center in Coralville on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

Health experts in Johnson County predict that COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more like influenza shots, especially with the new vaccine currently available in Iowa City and Johnson County this fall.

Local Public Health officials are encouraging residents to get vaccinated ahead of the cold and flu season. There was an uptick in COVID-19 cases this fall and a small increase in hospitalizations, said Samuel Jarvis, Johnson County Public Health community health division manager.

This led Jarvis to the conclusion that COVID-19 cases, like other seasonal infections such as the flu, RSV, and other respiratory viruses, are increasing around this time of year due to more people spending time inside.

Currently there is a rise in the three key variants of COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Forecasts by disease specialists show that these variants will continue to rise throughout the winter and into the spring, but the current booster was created to combat these variants.

When comparing to historical data, these three variants have cropped up all over the U.S. at a higher proportion than before, Ken Anderson, the director of the Executive Master of Healthcare Administration track with the University of Iowa College of Public Health, said.

Jarvis said Johnson County is working to make sure the COVID-19 shots more accessible to the public and increasing awareness.

“Currently, the main focus that we’re looking at here at Johnson County Public Health is making sure that access is still equitable,” Jarvis said.

In the coming weeks, Johnson County Public Health will seek better insight on which pharmacy providers will continue to carry COVID-19 vaccines, including the newest version, for those who are not able to afford it, Jarvis said.

He said Johnson County Public Health will also continue to foster support from its state and federal partners who perform the necessary health surveillance and work with those who make vaccines to match the shot to upcoming variants, as is done with flu vaccines, and now with COVID-19.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will also offer this new shot to its employees and encourage people to seek out the shot at local pharmacies, said Taylor Vessel, the communications specialist at UIHC.

“This is in line with what our plans have been in the past,” Vessel said. “The latest booster is available in the community at certain pharmacies like CVS and Hy-Vee.”

However, considering the extent of changes made with the new COVID shot, some researchers are hesitant to call it a “booster.”

“We really don’t have that degree of a sophisticated protection system in our bodies from previous infections in previous vaccines,” Anderson said. “It would be tempting to call it a booster, but really, it’s an entirely new vaccine.”

Anderson said the new shot is not like the original vaccine because it’s trying to address the prominent variants projected to rise this fall and winter. He said humans will have to adapt to COVID-19, like they have the flu.

RELATED: Johnson County adds new doula program with federal COVID-19 funds

There is now a sophisticated medical model for influenza in terms of the approach to it as an infecting organism, as well as the use of vaccines, Anderson said.

“I go back to some of the times in my career where we looked at a new variant of influenza and it’s similar to how we approached COVID-19 in its early days,” Anderson said. “Just like influenza is a disease that can produce illness, hospitalization and death, we’re trying as best we can.”

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About the Contributors
Julia Rhodes, Reporter
Julia Rhodes is a first year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications and minoring in Dance. She loves writing as well as presenting that work on screen and is hoping to be equally a Daily Iowan reporter as well as a DITV reporter. She enjoys writing about all topics from crime and politics to arts and public health.