URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – Healthcare providers are encouraging those who are eligible to get a second COVID-19 booster shot.

If you’re over 50 and you’ve had two full doses of an mRNA vaccine, you can now get another booster four months after your first. Carle Hospital’s Associate Chief Medical Officer for Adult and Children’s Services David Chan, M.D. said even though it may seem like the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, people should still take measures to maximize protection against the virus, especially if they have underlying conditions.

Picture it this way: he said vaccines basically “teach” your body how to fight an infection, and boosters are needed to “remind” it. Medical professionals believe the group of people who are currently eligible have more difficulty “remembering” the best internal defense in order to avoid a serious illness.

“They [bodies] do need to be reminded, say – we need you to remember this is how the organism attacks your body. So here’s information – create the response that you need to fight off the infection,” Dr. Chan said.

He said for those who’ve gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, current research suggests they may benefit from receiving an mRNA booster shot – either Pfizer and Moderna.

“In reality, it is not over. I don’t think anybody wants to hear that. And Dr. Fauci has certainly been very adamant by telling people that we need to continue to fight,” he said.

But, he said there’s still good news. More people are now protected by vaccinations, so the numbers are less dramatic than earlier in the pandemic.

“When health institutions like Carle Foundation Hospital were extremely stressed and we were at maximum capacity, we were forced to turn away a lot of patients who normally would have benefited from our services to help them. So we do need to continue to be very vigilant,” he said.

If the CDC expands second booster eligibility, he would advise them to get the shot as well.

“I’m still very concerned about the potential for “long COVID” symptoms, even in our healthy population. And we are still learning about that. So, my advice to everyone is that I’d rather get the vaccine than actually get the infection,” he said.

So, what’s next? How many boosters will be necessary?

“I think everybody wants that crystal ball to know, ‘is this going to be like the flu? Will we need annual shots in order to stay protected because of mutations that will occur?’ And the answer is nobody really knows for sure, right? Because viruses are amazing organisms that can mutate and adapt to various different stresses that are placed on it,” he said.

He said the easiest place to get a booster is your primary care provider. Carle offers vaccinations in both their primary care and convenient care offices. They’ll be hosting two community clinics in May to open up access further. National chain pharmacies offer the shots as well. You can find additional reliable information here.

“We still are hearing stories about different parts of the world where they’re seeing, again, a little uptick in cases. So, just a reminder that even though we have really improved dramatically, this is really going to be with us for the long term.”