HOUSTON (CW39) — The nation’s top medical experts are predicting that COVID-19 is here to stay and urging all Americans to get vaccinated or boosted.

“My message to you is simple: Get your updated COVID 19 shot as soon as you are eligible in order to protect yourself, your family, and your community against COVID 19 this fall and winter.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Until now, COVID-19 vaccines have targeted the original coronavirus strain. The new U.S. boosters are combination, or “bivalent,” shots. They contain half the original vaccine recipe and half protection against the newest omicron versions, BA.4 and BA.5.

During a white house press briefing Tuesday,  Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted we are on a path where we would need a yearly updated COVID-19 vaccine, just like the flu.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that looking forward with the COVID 19 pandemic, in the absence of a dramatically different variant, we likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine with annual updated COVID 19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains for most of the population,” he said.

Is it safe to take the COVID-19 and flu vaccines together

“The good news is you can get both your flu shot and COVID shot at the same time. It’s actually a good idea,” said Dr. Ashish Jha White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator.

Northern hemisphere researchers and modelers look at the flu data from the southern hemisphere since their flu season hits first, usually between May to October. During the past two years, the case count, hospitalizations, and flu-related deaths have been down because of COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as masking and social distancing.

But now, Australia is seeing their worst flu season in five years. That is signaling to U.S. health professionals that we will be hit harder and sooner by the flu this fall and winter.

What doctors are telling their patients who refuse to be vaccinated

Texas doctors agree with the White House COVID-19 response team that the coronavirus and flu vaccines can be taken together.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said that up to 100,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths could be prevented if Americans get the updated booster at the same rate they typically get an annual flu shot this fall.

About half of Americans are typically vaccinated against the flu each year.

Dr. David Winter, of Baylor Scott & White Health, warns his unvaccinated patients to be careful in crowds by continuing to wear a mask.

“I also point out with influenza, patients of mine that don’t get a vaccine that come down with influenza, they’re very sick for a week or two. Folks that are vaccinated with influenza vaccine have mild cases. The same with COVID. Most folks in the hospital right now and most deaths are in folks that are not vaccinated so the vaccines do work ever stillness,” he said.

To find a COVID-19 bivalent vaccine, you can visit Vaccines.gov to find a location near you. CVS, Walgreens, and local pharmacies are already booking appointments and administering the updated coronavirus dose.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.