December 11, 2023

One of the best ways to promote good health this winter is to get seasonal vaccines to help protect you and your family from flu and COVID. Not only do these vaccines help keep you healthy, but they help protect others who are at high risk for severe illness from these viruses.

Katlyn Schweder APRN, CNP, FNP

Family Medicine

People at high risk for severe illness include grandparents, babies and those with certain health conditions like heart and lung disease and diabetes.

If you have insurance, COVID and flu vaccines are available for free in most cases at your pharmacy or clinic. Many pharmacies begin vaccinations at age 3 and older, but vaccination ages do vary. Check with your pharmacy to find out what age they begin vaccinations for flu and COVID.  The vaccines can be administered in the same visit and it takes about two weeks to build immunity.

Call 625-1811 to schedule flu and COVID shots at one of the Mankato Clinic locations.

Here’s what you need to know about these vaccines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Flu vaccine

For the 2023-24 season, the CDC recommends an updated flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. People 65 and older should get a high-dose flu vaccine if available.

Flu vaccines can keep you from getting sick with the flu. If you do get sick, studies show that the vaccine can help reduce the severity of illness and keep you out of the doctor’s office and hospital. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk for getting the flu including people with chronic conditions such as lung or heart disease and diabetes.

If you’re pregnant, the flu vaccine protects you during pregnancy and baby during the first few months of life. For children, the vaccine can be lifesaving. A 2022 study showed that the vaccine reduced children’s risk of severe life-threatening influenza by 75%.

COVID-19 vaccine

Updated COVID-19 vaccines that target an Omicron subvariant and several currently circulating subvariants are available for the 2023-24 season. The updated vaccines are expected to offer better protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

The CDC recommends that everyone aged 5 years and older get one dose of the updated vaccine to protect against serious illness. Children 6 months to 4 years old need multiple doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, including at least one dose of the updated vaccine. While this may sound confusing, your healthcare provider can make sure your child gets the proper vaccinations.

It’s true that COVID-19 has been causing mostly mild illness recently, due in part to vaccines and natural immunity, but the risk of severe illness and long COVID remains.

People age 50 and older are more likely than younger people to get very sick from COVID. In addition, people who are immunocompromised or have chronic medical conditions, including diabetes or heart disease, are at a higher risk for severe illness.


Flu and COVID symptoms are similar: fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches and headache. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur.

Since it’s hard to tell the difference, a COVID test is needed. As we learn more about this virus, evidence shows that people may be contagious for longer periods of time. That’s why it’s important to follow CDC guidelines when you or someone in your home gets ill.

COVID testing is widely available through over-the-counter tests, pharmacies and clinics. To order your FREE at-home test kits, visit

Stay well this winter.