Joseph R, Anticaglia, MD
Medical Advisory Board
From January to December 2022, COVID-19 was the primary or contributing cause of approximately 244,000 deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On September 12 of this year, the CDC recommended that “everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19 related hospitalization and death. It reduces your chance of suffering the effects of Long COVID. If you have not received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 2 months, get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself this fall and winter.”
The viruses that cause COVID-19 or Flu, for instance, are always changing. And protection from Flu or COVID-19 vaccines decline over time, which can leave you unprotected against these viruses. Receiving updated vaccines can restore protection and reduce the likelihood of illness, hospitalizations and deaths. The updated COVID vaccine approved by the FDA in September 2023 is based on a one component, monovalent, vaccine called XBB.1.5 which is effective against the majority of current COVID variants.
Vaccines are available this fall and winter season for COVID-19, flu and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the three viruses responsible for most hospitalizations. Some suggest the first or second week of October as the best possible time to get vaccinated to protect yourself from the above three viruses. People at high for severe illness should be vaccinated as soon as possible. After vaccination, a person’s antibody level will rise gradually and generally peak around three to four weeks post-vaccination.
CDC continues to recommend vaccination as long as flu viruses pose a threat. CDC has recommended annual vaccinations for everyone six months and older since 2010.
Each year in the United States, RSV leads to approximately two million outpatient (non-hospital) visits and 58,000 to 80,000 hospitalizations among children younger than five years of age. Among adults 65 years and older, RSV accounted for approximately 60,000 to 160,000 hospitalizations.
RSV vaccines are not suggested for everyone. They’re recommended by CDC for children under six months of age and adults 60 years and older, especially those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and weakened immune system. Patients should have a conversation with their physician to determine if the RSV vaccination will be beneficial.
The fall and winter respiratory virus season has gone beyond being labelled only the flu season. It might be time to consider fall and winter as the “Respi Season,” that is, the respiratory infection season which includes COVID-19, RSV and flu viruses with their own unique features.
Experts have begun treating COVID and RSV like they treat influenza, with annual vaccinations. The benefits of vaccinations continue to outweigh any potential risks. However, discuss with your physician what is best for you regarding vaccinations.
Beginning September 25th, 2023 every US household can again place an order to receive four more free COVID-19 rapid tests delivered directly to their home (go to covidtests.gov).
Most Americans can get the “Respi” vaccines for free. People without health plans to cover the cost of the vaccinations, can contact the CDC’s Bridge Access Program, for information about no-cost vaccines.
Children eligible for the ‘Vaccines for Children’ program may receive the vaccine from a provider enrolled in that program.
- CDC; COVID-19 Mortality Update — United States, 2022; Morbidity & Mortality Update, May 5, 2023
- CDC; Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV);Surveillance & Research; July 19, 2023
- Deb Balzer; COVID-19, RSV, and flu—season of respiratory infections; Mayo Clinic, October 2, 2022
- CDC; 2023-2024 CDC flu vaccination recommendations; June 29,2023
- Andy Pekosz, PhD; Q & A What to Know About the Updated COVID-19 Vaccine for Fall/Winter 2023; Johns Hopkins, September 14, 2022
- CDC; Human Serology and Flu; December 2, 2022
This article is intended solely as a learning experience. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options.