GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Local health officials encourage people to consider getting the Bivalent COVID-19 vaccine before another possible flu increase in the fall.

Dr. Thomas Ryan Gallaher, Director of Infectious Disease Specialist for ECU Health Care, said the Bivalent vaccine is essentially two strains of the virus in one vaccine. The familiarity with the previous vaccines comes into play with Bivalent, which is important for protecting yourself.

“Essentially what Bivalent means is it’s two things in one vaccine,” said Gallaher “So they’ve kind of killed two birds with one stone. So you have the original SARS‑CoV‑2  to the original strain that we’ve all gotten hopefully vaccinated for the last couple of years, which we’re familiar with it. And in addition, they added BA.4 and BA.5 lineages to it to to the mix.”

Gallaher said this updated one is also an mRNA vaccine.

“It’s essentially a different mRNA molecule targeted to help your immune system. Specifically, see and thus make a response to these new variants that we’re seeing. Because we are seeing most of the COVID that we’re seeing right now is with the BA.4 and BA.5 strains that are in this shot,” said Gallaher.

Even though this vaccine has been recently rolled out, Gallaher said ECU Health has had several patients ask for it, and said the health system offers it at their occupational health clinics.

Gallaher said with the fall season here, he emphasizes how important the Bivalent vaccine is as well as the flu shot.

“There’s some metrics that will point to like, for instance, Australia, or some places that are in their flu season right now they’ve had a little bit more of a worst flu season,” said Gallaher. “So we really encourage folks to get their flu shot and their COVID shot.”

He recommended talking with your health care provider when it comes to scheduling your vaccine or booster. For CDC’s guidance of when to get the COVID booster, visit CDC.gov