With fall here and winter just around the corner, your calendar can quickly fill up with school activities, sporting events, and holiday gatherings. No one wants to get sidelined because they’re sick. The best way to protect you and your family from getting seriously ill is to make sure everyone stays up to date with vaccines.
The yearly flu and COVID vaccines are now available and made specifically to fight the viruses that are predicted to circulate this winter. And for the first time we have ways to protect the elderly and infants from RSV (or respiratory syncytial virus). It’s also safe and effective to get all three shots at one time, or space them out, whichever is more convenient for you.
Vaccines are available at local pharmacies, City health centers, and your provider’s office. Find a COVID-19 vaccine near you or visit vaccines.gov for up-to-date information on where you can find vaccines in your area. If you’re having trouble finding a vaccine, check out our earlier blog post.
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are part of the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program and continue to be free for all children through age 18. For adults, vaccines will be covered by insurance. Uninsured and underinsured people will still have access to the COVID-19 vaccine through the Bridge Access Program, a federal program that allows uninsured people to get vaccinated at no charge.
We wouldn’t be the Health Department if we didn’t urge everyone in Philadelphia to get up to date with all the vaccines you’re eligible for. The more Philadelphians get vaccinated against winter viruses, the less likely we all are to get very sick or worse, end up in the hospital. Read on to find out which vaccines you need to schedule for yourself and your loved ones.
Updated COVID vaccine
Everyone 6 months and older is eligible for an updated COVID-19 vaccine, provided it has been at least two months since their last COVID-19 vaccine. People who have had a recent COVID infection can consider waiting three months before getting their shot. Find out more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about recommendations for every age.
People over 65, pregnant people, and infants, along with those with certain chronic medical conditions, are at higher risk for hospitalization. However, recent research has shown children and adults who are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines are less likely to need care in the emergency department or urgent care. COVID vaccines are very safe. Billions of doses of vaccine have been administered safely around the world.
Flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. Most hospitalizations caused by flu occur in young children, pregnant people, and older adults. Although those with chronic medical conditions are more at risk, healthy adults can still be hospitalized, and about a third of children hospitalized because of the flu are otherwise healthy. Unfortunately, every year healthy children and adults die from influenza. The flu vaccine this year is expected to cut your chance of hospitalization by about 50 percent if you get the flu.
For people over 60
This year, there are two new RSV vaccines available for adults over 60: Abrysvo and Arexvy. Although these vaccines are new, they work similarly to other vaccines such as the Hepatitis B vaccine, which has been available for over 30 years. These vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalization in this age group. If you’re over 60, you should have a conversation with your healthcare provider about whether you would benefit from this vaccine. This vaccine will provide at least two years of protection, if not more. RSV season has been unpredictable over the last few years, Please don’t delay in discussing the RSV vaccine with your provider.
For pregnant people
Abrysvo is also recommended for pregnant people in their third trimester (at 32–36 weeks). Although people who are pregnant are not at an increased risk of severe disease from RSV illness, their newborns are. By getting vaccinated, the pregnant person protects their newborn baby until about 6 months of age. Studies show that this vaccine is highly effective in keeping infants with RSV from being hospitalized.
For infants and toddlers
For infants whose parent did not receive the RSV vaccine while pregnant, the monoclonal antibody Beyfortus is recommended. This is a one-time shot recommended for all infants under 8 months and for some infants 8 to 24 months who are at increased risk of severe disease due to RSV. This immunization is highly effective (at 80 to 90 percent) in preventing hospitalization and severe disease from RSV, the number one cause of hospitalization in children less than one year old. Premature infants and those with chronic medical conditions are particularly at risk of severe disease, yet most hospitalizations occur in healthy children under 6 months of age. Beyfortus is easily tolerated in infants and toddlers with no serious side effects.
It’s a busy time of year. Don’t risk getting sick. Get up to date on all your vaccines and enjoy fall in Philadelphia and all that the upcoming winter holidays have to offer.