What you should know about protecting your health this fall

Getting vaccinated before the flu and cold season arrives is a vital step in safeguarding your health and the well-being of those around you.

Michael Ybarra, M.D.October 16, 2023
Close up image of gloved hand putting band-aid on patient's arm.

What you should know about protecting your health this fall.

The cold and flu season is right around the corner which means respiratory viruses like COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are going to be widely circulating. The good news is that we have vaccines available to protect against these three serious and contagious viruses. Getting vaccinated helps prime your immune system so you can fight viruses faster and more effectively. Getting vaccinated can also help your own community as there is evidence that vaccines can help slow the transmission of these viruses. By doing your part, you help create a safer environment for everyone, including those who are immunocompromised and often more susceptible to severe illness from these infections.

There’s been a lot of news about these vaccines recently, so here are a few things you should know as we head into the fall. As always, consult with your health care provider with any questions about which vaccines are most appropriate for you.

COVID-19: Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved — and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed — an updated COVID-19 vaccine which targets currently circulating variants from the Omicron family. Companies are testing the updated vaccine against emerging variants like the BA.2.86 subvariant — a.k.a. Pirola. Early data suggest these vaccines continue to be effective against these emerging variants.

  • Who can get a new COVID19 vaccine? The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine as long as it has been at least two months since your last shot. You can sign up in the same manner you received prior vaccines or boosters such as through your local pharmacy’s website/app or health care provider.

Influenza: The flu shot is recommended for a wide range of individuals to help prevent the spread of the influenza virus and to protect against severe illness.

  • Who should get a flu shot? The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for all individuals aged 6 months and older. Certain individuals who are at a higher risk of developing severe influenza such as older adults, children under the age of five and pregnant women should especially prioritize getting vaccinated.

RSV: RSV is the primary cause of hospitalization among infants in the United States and there was no vaccine available before this year. Fortunately, there has been a lot of progress in the development of vaccines and therapeutics for RSV. This includes vaccines for the elderly and pregnant women, and a monoclonal antibody for infants.

  • Who should get an RSV vaccine?
    • The FDA approved a vaccine for individuals 60 years of age and older who may receive it after talking to their doctor.
    • The CDC recommends infants younger than 8 months before entering their first RSV season and children 8-19 months at risk of severe RSV entering their second RSV season receive a new monoclonal antibody vaccine that provides protection against severe illness. 
    • And just recently, the FDA approved, and CDC endorsed, an RSV vaccine during weeks 32-36 of pregnancy to protect babies from RSV.  

Getting vaccinated before the flu and cold season arrives is a vital step in safeguarding your health and the well-being of those around you. By prioritizing vaccination, you become an essential part of the collective effort to overcome ongoing public health challenges. Don't wait; talk to your doctor or pharmacist about getting vaccinated today to ensure a healthier and safer fall and winter for everyone.

Find a vaccine and more information at vaccines.gov.

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