Three Shots for the Fall
If you are over 60 years old, you may be eligible for three vaccines this fall for respiratory infections that sicken millions of Americans every year. The goal is to protect against another “tripledemic” with vaccines targeted against RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), influenza and COVID19.
New this year is the RSV vaccine, providing protection against this respiratory illness. Currently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends adults 60 years and older may receive a single dose of RSV vaccine, based upon discussions between the patient and their health care provider. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, coughing, sneezing and wheezing. Although RSV can cause illness in people of all ages, infection may be especially serious for infants, older adults and those with weakened immune systems. RSV is estimated to send 160,000 older adults to the hospital every year.
Covid cases have been on the rise this summer. The good news is that CDC data shows that Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the US are the lowest they’ve been since the beginning of the pandemic. Nevertheless, protection against this virus remains a priority in order to keep the incidence of complications from COVID19 infection at a minimum. In June, a panel of advisors for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted unanimously to update the COVID19 vaccine to target Omicron emerging subvariants. In particular, the new vaccine will target the subvariant “XBB,” which currently comprises about 40 percent of new infections in the United States. This new vaccine is a “monovalent vaccine,” targeting one strain, rather than the currently available bivalent vaccine, which targets both the original strain of the virus and the Omicron subvariants that took over last winter. Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax began development of the new monovalent vaccine in the spring. Early data shows that these shots produce strong response to all XBB variants. We expect the new monovalent vaccine to be available to patients in September but are awaiting final approval.
The CDC recommends annual influenza immunization for everyone six months and older. Ideal timing to receive the flu shot is during September or October or “before Halloween.” Flu viruses are constantly changing. The makeup of flu vaccines is reviewed annually by the FDA and is updated as needed to best match the flu strains predicted to be most common during the upcoming flu season. How well flu vaccine works can depend on the match between the predicted vaccine viruses and circulating viruses. Estimates show that last season, people who were vaccinated against flu were about 40% to 70% less likely to be hospitalized because of flu illness or related complications.
Co-administration of Vaccines
Last fall, the flu and Covid vaccines were often given together and seemed to work well. Because the RSV vaccine is new, however, there is little information on how it might interact with the other two vaccines. The CDC is expected to make recommendations on administration of the vaccines together in the coming weeks. At this point, it is accepted that flu and Covid can be given together without difficulty. In terms of RSV administration, it may be advisable to wait two weeks after flu and COVID vaccine to get the RSV shot, until more information is available.
Vaccines at BMA
BMA will begin offering flu shots in September at your regularly scheduled appointments. We currently are creating flu shot clinics and will be posting schedules soon. We are hoping to be able to provide RSV this fall as well. Once the new monovalent COVID19 vaccine is officially approved, we will be working to have this in the office, if feasible, as well. If you have questions about any of this information, please reach out to your BMA doctors. We wish you a happy and healthy fall season!