BeWell: What Vaccines Will Protect You As Flu Season Approaches?
The new FDA-approved COVID vaccine, along with flu and RSV shots are recommended by health experts. Others may be suggested based on your age and general health.
With cooler temperatures on the horizon, it’s time to schedule important fall vaccines to protect you from the onset of flu season.
The three main vaccines to think about this season are the updated COVID-19 vaccine, recently approved by the Food & Drug Administration, the new Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV vaccine for those ages 60 and older and the flu vaccine.
Pittsburgh-area doctors recommend receiving all three shots by the end of October, especially if you and your family plan on traveling for the holidays.
Can the shots be administered at the same time?
The CDC says if you are due for both the flu and COVID vaccines, it is safe to receive both at the same visit.
Dr. Peter Hotez, who leads the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, tells NPR some people may opt to receive the shots separately to lessen pain at the injection site and possible body aches or side effects associated with the shots.
The NPR article also cites health experts who recommend receiving the RSV vaccine separately, about a week or two apart.
It is always important to discuss your concerns and health conditions with your doctor prior to receiving any vaccines.
Dr. Susan Panah, internal medicine specialist with St. Clair Health, says the majority of people ages 6 months and older are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive the updated vaccine.
“The new COVID vaccine is a bit different than the previous ones,” Panah explains. “This one is a monovalent shot containing one virus when previous vaccines contained two, called bivalent. Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax have performed studies and researched the recent strains of COVID, such as Omicron to isolate what we need protected against since the COVID virus is continuously changing.”
Health experts urge anyone ages 65 and older, those with compromised immune systems and those who suffer from certain conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to receive the new booster as soon as possible to prevent severe illness, especially since COVID cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise since July.
“It will also help to reduce the effects of Long COVID,” Panah says.
Dr. Marc Itskowitz, Allegheny Health Network internal medicine physician, encourages those skeptical about the coronavirus vaccine to “simply look at the data.”
“Hundreds of millions of people have safely received the vaccine under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history,” he says. “We strongly believe they are safe and effective and that they do protect against more severe diseases like respiratory failure and death.”
Everyone ages 6 months and older, with some exceptions, should also receive the flu vaccine this fall to help prevent serious infection or hospitalization, says Panah.
Itskowitz says the flu vaccine is updated annually to help prevent patients from contracting current strains of the virus.
According to the CDC, different influenza vaccines are developed for different age groups.
The organization cautions there are people who should not receive the flu vaccine or certain types of flu vaccines, such as those who are pregnant or have some chronic health conditions.
Panah says RSV is dangerous for older adults, adults with chronic health conditions and infants.
Itskowitz adds this single, one-time dose recommended by the CDC will help keep older adults and those with compromised immune systems out of the hospital.
Two new RSV antibody treatments have also been developed for children ages 2 and under to help keep them healthy and out of the hospital.
“Unfortunately, thousands of children are hospitalized with RSV every year,” he says. “These treatments will provide another layer of defense, along with the child’s immune system.”
Itskowitz urges the public to avoid others who are sick, use proper hand-washing hygiene and to consider wearing a mask if you are sick or in a crowded, indoor space.