When summer heat gives way to cooler fall temps, medical professionals quickly remind us that respiratory illness arrives with the change in seasons. Examples of respiratory illnesses include the flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
In the last few years, the flu has taken a back seat to the COVID pandemic, but both types of respiratory illness can be severe and lead to hospitalization and, in worst-case scenarios, death. Forecasters are predicting an early start to the flu season this year, and COVID cases saw an uptick from people staying inside during the hot summer.
Adding to the fall flu and COVID concerns are worries over RSV, a respiratory illness that threatens young children and older adults. It is possible that cases of all three respiratory illness – flu, COVID and RSV – could increase sharply this fall. It sets the stage for what some are calling a tripledemic. One outbreak is bad enough, but if all three respiratory illnesses catch fire at once … it’s not good news.
This year, new vaccines for RSV are available for babies and older adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that people ages 60 and older consult their doctors on whether to get the vaccine.
New vaccine services available through pharmacies
With leadership’s approval and collaboration among many departments, credentialed pharmacists have been added as network providers. One of the new services that Arkansas Pharmacists can now provide is the testing and treatment of COVID-19 and Flu. Getting vaccinated against illnesses such as COVID-19, Flu, and RSV. See below for more information on recent vaccines.
There is a new COVID-19 vaccine formulation this fall. All COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax, will have the same strain composition. This is similar to flu vaccines.
Starting this fall, the federal government will not supply COVID-19 vaccines, but Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield members will still have a $0 cost because these vaccines are part of the ACA’s preventable drug list.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
RSV season is typically October through March. This illness can be dangerous for infants and certain adults. This year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released protection for RSV for older adults, pregnant people and infants.
Adults at highest risk for severe RSV infection include:
- Older adults, especially those 65 years and older
- Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
- Adults with weakened immune systems
The FDA has approved two RSV vaccines for adults, Abrysvo (Pfizer) and Arexvy (GSK). Vaccines for RSV should be given before the season begins. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one dose of the RSV vaccine should protect against the virus for at least two winter seasons. While receiving the RSV vaccine with the flu and COVID-19 vaccines is acceptable, if you are concerned about the side effects, you may want to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time in different arms and get the RSV vaccine on a different day. Visit ImmunizeAR for more answers regarding questions on vaccine schedules, safety, and necessity.
FDA Approved RSV Vaccines for Adults
- Patients ages 60 years old and older
- Pregnant patients 32-36 weeks gestational age
- Patients ages 60 years and older
RSV Protection for Infants
The FDA has approved a monoclonal antibody to provide protection for infants against RSV for at least five months.
- Neonates and infants born during or entering their first RSV season
- Children up to 24 months who remain vulnerable to severe RSV disease through their second RSV season
The way to fight back and keep the respiratory genie in the bottle is to get your shots and get them early. If you get your immunizations in September-October, you will have built up your immunity if respiratory illnesses start to appear in late October-November.
The bottom line is that getting vaccinations means a better fall for everyone.