Getting vaccinated against common viruses may keep you from getting sick this winter.
When fall rolls around, many doctors recommend getting a flu shot. That’s because flu season typically ramps up in October, with peak season occurring between December and February. This year, a flu shot may not be the only vaccine that is recommended, however.
“In addition to an annual flu shot, it may be time to get another COVID-19 booster,” says primary care physician Dr. Hemmal Kothary, Chief Medical Officer at Dignity Health - Mercy Hospitals Bakersfield. “An updated vaccine is available this fall to provide protection against current strains of the virus that are circulating. Getting a COVID-19 booster may be especially important for older adults and those who are more at risk of complications from the virus.”
Another vaccine that may be on your radar for the very first time is one that provides protection against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). “This virus is usually associated with young children but adults may also get sick from RSV. Older adults are especially at risk of developing complications from the virus that can lead to hospitalization or even death,” Dr. Kothary adds.
Last year, all three of these viruses hit hard around the same time of the year—in the fall and winter. Some referred to the three viruses as a tripledemic. This year, health experts are concerned that the same thing may happen.
Who should get these vaccines?
Not sure if you should get one, two or three of these vaccines? Here are recommendations for each:
- Flu – Annual flu vaccines are recommended for all people aged 6 months and older, unless there is a specific reason that a doctor suggests that you do not get vaccinated. Most people only need a single dose of the flu vaccine, but some children under age 9 may need a second dose. “Getting the flu vaccine in September or October is ideal, but if you miss that timeframe, it’s not too late to get a flu shot any time after that, since flu season usually sticks around until May,” says Dr. Kothary.
- COVID-19 – New vaccines have been updated to target the XBB variants of the COVID-19 virus. These are strains of the virus that came from the Omicron variant and are the most common form of the virus currently in circulation. This vaccine is available to adults and children ages 6 months and older.
- RSV – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently endorsed recommendations for adults aged 60 and older to receive a single dose of the RSV vaccine. This is the first time an RSV vaccine has ever been available. Talk to your doctor about whether getting an RSV vaccine is right for you.
According to Dr. Kothary, people who are over 60 and suffer from chronic medical conditions such as cardiopulmonary disease, liver or kidney disorders, neurologic conditions, diabetes, or blood disorders are at a higher risk for severe RSV.
Dr. Kothary notes that vaccines are the best way to protect yourself from certain preventable diseases that can have serious complications or even lead to death. By getting vaccinated, you not only protect yourself but also avoid spreading preventable diseases to people around you.
Don’t know if you should get the flu, COVID, or RSV vaccines? Talk to your doctor to find out which vaccinations are recommended for you and your family.