Batten down the hatches. Another Philadelphia winter is upon us. Temperatures may fluctuate, and we may or may not see snow, but we can count on colder forecasts. Unfortunately, as people spend more time inside with others during the winter months, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are likely to increase — just as they have in the last two years.

The next months are risky for seniors and people who have weakened immune systems. But, this winter, we have an advantage. The updated bivalent booster was made to provide protection from Omicron variants. The earlier vaccines have lost some of their efficacy, but the updated booster can recharge our immunity.

The problem? The people who need this booster the most may not know much about it or how well it works at keeping them safe. This time, the federal government isn’t sending as many teams to help vaccinate in community centers and nursing homes. Information about the booster may not be as widespread as it could be. We need all Philadelphians to help spread the word. Encourage older friends and family members to get the updated booster. It can help them get through the winter safely.

A big benefit for seniors

When it comes to getting very sick from COVID-19, age is the biggest risk factor. People 65 and older who get COVID-19 are four times more likely to be hospitalized. Their risk of death is even higher. But, there’s hope.

A new study shows that the updated booster gives vaccinated seniors strong protection against hospitalization from COVID-19. The seniors in this study got an updated booster dose after finishing the primary vaccination series. They were compared to seniors who only had the primary vaccine series. Even with multiple underlying health conditions, those who got the updated booster dose were up to 83% more protected from hospitalization.

More ways to protect ourselves

Of course, there are more ways to protect ourselves and others this winter (PDF). Wear a mask if you’re in a crowd, especially indoors. Test before you attend a gathering or spend time around people who are elderly or immunocompromised. If you feel sick, stay home.

First and foremost, get vaccinated. Vaccination with the updated booster is the most effective way to protect you, your loved ones, and your community from COVID-19.

Tell an older friend or family member. Check your vaccine status using the CDC’s Vaccine Up-to-Date chartFind a booster dose near you.

For questions about boosters, vaccines, or anything else related to COVID-19, call (215) 685-5488 or email