COVID-19, flu and RSV vaccines are all available this fall: See what some doctors recommend and why
Ever since Americans endured a pandemic, the usual suspects during flu season now include the COVID-19 virus and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
“As we are heading into cold and flu season, there is significant concern for another ‘tripledemic’ with COVID, flu and RSV positivity rising at the same time,” Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, medical director of infection control and prevention for Ochsner Health in New Orleans, Louisiana, told Fox News Digital.
But the possibility of a “tripledemic” may be blunted by an arsenal of vaccines to fight each one for the first time this winter.
“As a preventative measure, especially for those who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions, it is important to receive vaccinations against these viruses ahead of fall and winter,” said Baumgarten.
So what does that mean for you?
Read on to find out how to stay safe this winter season, while understanding that everyone should check in with their own doctor or health care provider to discuss the best options for them based on their individual health conditions.
As more people stayed indoors to beat the record summer heat, new COVID-19 variants have been causing a summer wave of COVID-19 infections in part because of Americans’ waning immunity and vaccine fatigue.
Currently the EG.5 variant, a descendant of the omicron nicknamed “Eris,” is the dominant strain in the U.S., responsible for 21.5% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the most recent CDC data ending on Sept. 2.
COVID-19 hospitalizations recently increased by 16% for the week ending Aug. 26, according to the CDC.
Although there have now been seven consecutive weeks of rising numbers, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are approximately half compared at this time last year and nearly five times lower than in 2021.
“If you haven’t had a COVID booster shot in 2023, I highly recommend you get one as soon as possible,” Baumgarten told Fox News Digital.
“There will be a reformulated COVID-19 vaccination with additional protection becoming available in early October, but you should not wait to get that one.”
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting on September 12 to make recommendations to the CDC regarding updated COVID-19 vaccines.
For people who previously had COVID-19, Baumgarten recommends waiting until symptoms are resolved and there’s no longer a need to quarantine before receiving a COVID booster.
“Someone who recently was vaccinated, unless they fall into the highest risk groups — and it has been 4-6 months since their last vaccination — in general will not need additional vaccination,” Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Long Island, New York, told Fox News Digital.
He said each case needs to be treated based on that person’s individual background.
“All persons aged 6 months of age and older, with rare exception, are recommended for annual flu vaccination,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on its website.
Generally, the vaccine is 40-60% effective in preventing a doctor’s visit when the vaccine closely resembles the circulating strains, per the CDC.
It’s best to get vaccinated during September and October, experts advise.
This way, you can develop immunity before flu season kicks into high gear, they also say.
RSV, a highly contagious virus that causes lung infections, is responsible for the most hospitalizations of infants in the U.S. during their first year of life.
There is no RSV vaccine for children, but the FDA recently approved two monoclonal antibodies, nirsevimab (Beyfortus) and palivizumab (Synagis), to fight RSV.
These antibodies work by providing “passive immunity” by neutralizing the virus before it can cause damage in the body.
Nirsevimab is recommended for infants younger than 8 months who are born during RSV season, which often coincides with flu season from fall to spring.
Palivizumab is given only to children under 24 months with medical illnesses that place them at high risk for severe RSV disease.
Older adults infected with RSV can also develop life-threatening pneumonia and swelling of the small airways in the lungs known as bronchiolitis.
This summer the FDA approved the first two RSV vaccines, Arexvy and Abrysvo, for individuals 60 years of age and older, with Abrysvo also indicated for pregnant women.
The vaccine provides protection against RSV for at least two winter seasons, per the CDC.
Six people who received RSV vaccines in clinical trials developed inflammatory neurologic events, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes an ascending paralysis of the body.
Since the cause of these rare events was unclear, the CDC advised “shared decision-making” with people’s health care providers about risks versus benefits of the vaccine.
The CDC, said Baumgarten, declares that “it is acceptable for adults to receive all three vaccines at the same time.”
But it’s also fine to get the vaccines at different times, she added.
“I think that a certain percentage of patients should be getting the combination of all three vaccines, COVID, flu, and RSV — and that if there is no alternative, it is acceptable to get them all at the same time,” Glatt told Fox News Digital.
“That might increase local side effects and possibly even other side effects — but one has to weigh that against the likelihood of them not getting vaccinated at all if you separate them over time,” he said.