Last winter, the United States experienced a “tripleof these three airborne respiratory viruses, resulting in a increase in hospitalizations and deaths in both children and adults. And this year, some doctors fear a similar triple wave. But taking action now is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
“We’re two weeks in [away] since Thanksgiving, and now is the time to protect everyone,” he says Mandy Cohen, MD, director of the CDC. “Every winter season, we see more viruses circulating and unfortunately those viruses make people very sick, [and they can] they end up in the hospital and, unfortunately, even die.”
“We’re two weeks in [away] since Thanksgiving and now is a good time for everyone to protect themselves.” —Mandy Cohen, MD, director of the CDC
We may be nearly four years away from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dr. Cohen says the virus remains highly prevalent and given what we now know about the potential for long-term infection with COVID-19 and facing lingering health consequences from the infection, it’s still important to take all the precautions you can to avoid the virus.
That means getting vaccinated for COVID-19 as well as the flu and, for those who qualify, RSV as soon as possible (and especially before taking any Thanksgiving or holiday trips). Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about eligibility for the COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines, how to get them, possible side effects, and other tips from the CDC to stay healthy.
Who should get the COVID-19 and flu shots?
The The CDC recommends that everyone over six months of age gets this year’s flu shot, and everyone five years of age and older gets one dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine (even if you’ve had previous COVID-19 shots, assuming they were before from September 12, 2023). Any of the current options on the market for the COVID-19 vaccine—Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax—will satisfy this requirement.
An exception to this rule is if you have recently had COVID-19. the CDC suggests delaying your up-to-date vaccine by three months from the date you tested positive, since re-infection is unlikely in the few weeks immediately following infection.
Children aged between six months and four years may need extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to get up to date and anyone who is moderately or severely immunocompromised may also need extra doses of the updated vaccine, so if you are , it is important to consult your doctor your.
Who should get the RSV vaccine?
According to the CDC, adults over age 60 and people who are 32 to 36 weeks pregnant should get the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine. (To be clear, those who do not fall into these specific groups are not eligible for the RSV vaccine and should not.) RSV is a highly contagious flu-like condition that can be especially dangerous for vulnerable populations, including very elderly and the very young.
“For the first time, we have protection for our babies against RSV,” says Dr. Cohen, who emphasizes the importance of vaccination for anyone in these eligible groups. “If you’re pregnant, there’s a vaccine for you if you’re between 32 and 36 weeks pregnant, and we have an antibody vaccine that we can give to babies under eight months of age that can immediately protect them from RSV.”
According to the CDC, RSV kills about 6,000 to 10,000 older adults and 100,000 to 200,000 infants each year. Last fall, the United States experienced one dramatic increase in RSV1 that was driven by two strains of the virus, RSV-A and RSV-B. It is thought that a lack of exposure to typical seasonal viruses in the years of quarantine and lockdowns for COVID-19 may have triggered this surge, which again, occurred alongside an increase in both COVID-19 and influenza cases. , putting enormous pressure on hospitals. Getting the RSV vaccine, Dr. Cohen explains, can help prevent a repeat of last year’s spike and potentially save thousands of lives in the process.
Can I have 2 or 3 of the vaccines at the same time?
If you want to save time at the doctor’s office, Dr. Cohen says there’s no risk in getting any combination of the COVID-19, RSV, and/or flu shots at the same time. There is no minimum waiting period you must follow between each vaccine, according to the CDC.
That said, you may want to consult your doctor beforehand to discuss your options, as taking multiple shots in one go could potentially increase the side effects of each. a 2022 study found that people were slightly more likely to experience side effects when getting the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time2and CDC clinical trials found that those received the RSV and influenza vaccines at the same time experienced slightly more side effects than those who took them separately. However, the CDC reports that getting all three vaccinations at the same time is still safe and effective.
“If you can spread them, [and] you want to do that, that’s fine,” says Dr. Cohen. “Do you want to collect them?” Also good. It’s really more about what works for your schedule.”
What are the side effects of the COVID-19, flu and RSV vaccines?
Side effects of the COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines vary from person to person, but for most patients, symptoms are mild to moderate. “The most common side effects we see from these shots are pain at the injection site, some pain in the arm, and some pain or fatigue that usually goes away with Tylenol or ibuprofen,” says Dr. Cohen.
While there is certainly some risk of more serious side effects (such as nausea, chills, and fever), Dr. Cohen says these adverse reactions pale in comparison to how you would feel after contracting RSV, the flu, or COVID-19, and they are usually short-lived.
“The risks of what could happen to you if you don’t get vaccinated are much worse, so we want to make sure everyone is protected,” says Dr. Cohen.
4 CDC Tips for Staying Healthy This Season (Beyond Vaccination)
1. Stay home if you are sick
According to Dr. Cohen, one of the best ways to prevent your loved ones is to limit your contact with them while are you ill. Sure, it sucks to miss fun outings and gatherings, but with proper rest, treatment, and isolation, you’ll be back on your feet sooner and won’t risk making your family sick in the process. “You don’t want to bring germs into your family, especially if you’re getting together with grandparents or other older adults,” says Dr. Cohen.
If you start experiencing cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms, Dr. Cohen suggests getting tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. “Testing is really important [in order] to have access to the treatment that could save you from going to the hospital,” says Dr. Cohen.
You can get tested for COVID-19 for free through the CDC Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) Programme.. Use this test center locator to find a free test site near you or order up to four for free home self-test kit by the federal government.
Wearing face masks may no longer be the norm, but according to Dr. Cohen, they are still the best form of personal protection against airborne diseases. Face coverings that completely cover your nose and mouth can protect you from saliva droplets and sprays (yum!) that you might otherwise inhale when around others.
“Covid-19, influenza, and RSV are respiratory viruses and are spread through the air,” explains Dr. Cohen. “Remember – masks work to protect you from whatever may be circulating in your airspace.”
3. Wash your hands
To prevent hand-to-hand transmission of respiratory viruses (and diarrhea), the CDC recommends washing your hands properly throughout the day. You can easily get COVID-19, RSV, and the flu by touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands that have been in contact with any of these viruses.
While hand sanitizer does restrict the number of germs on your hands doesn’t rule out all types of germs, according to the CDC. According to the CDC hand washing instructions, be sure to wash your hands before, during and after cooking. before and after eating. after blowing the nose or sneezing. before and after contact with someone who is sick. and of course after using the toilet. Scrub it with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.”
4. Travel wisely
While airborne diseases are rampant this time of year, Dr. Cohen says you can keep your vacation travel plans on hold—just be careful about your contact with others. Getting vaccinated, wearing a mask when possible, and washing your hands often will greatly reduce your chances of getting sick while traveling.
“We all can [still] we get together with our friends and travel,” says Dr. Cohen. “I’m planning to travel this Thanksgiving, but we’re using layers of protection. That’s why I got vaccinated, my kids got vaccinated, [and] my husband is vaccinated.”
Following these healthy practices can keep you—and your loved ones—safe throughout the holiday season. “We all want to have a happy and healthy holiday season with Thanksgiving just two weeks away,” says Dr. Cohen. “We know that people congregate indoors and viruses like that. They like to hang around with us, so we have to use the tools at our disposal to protect ourselves.”
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Adams, Gordon et al. “2022 RSV surge driven by multiple viral lineages”. medRxiv: the preprint server for the health sciences 2023.01.04.23284195. 5 Jan. 2023, doi:10.1101/2023.01.04.23284195. Preprint.
Hause AM, Zhang B, Yue X, et al. Reactivity of concurrent COVID-19 mRNA booster and influenza vaccination in the US. JAMA Network Open. 2022;5(7):e2222241. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.22241