As the fall and winter season approaches, experts are urging individuals to boost their immunity in preparation for the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and the presence of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Here are some key points to keep in mind:
1. COVID-19 Vaccine: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older receive the updated COVID-19 monovalent vaccine, designed to target the XBB 1.5 Omicron strain. This vaccine is expected to be effective against currently circulating variants.
2. Flu Vaccine: The CDC also recommends that individuals aged 6 months and older receive an annual flu shot, with very few exceptions. If someone has experienced a severe allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past or a life-threatening reaction to any vaccine ingredient, they may be exempt.
3. RSV Vaccine: A vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has been approved for individuals aged 60 and older. Monoclonal antibody products are also available to protect infants under 8 months old. An RSV vaccine for pregnant women has been approved by the FDA, but the CDC has not yet issued guidance on it.
4. Multiple Shots: Getting the COVID and flu shots at the same time is safe and convenient. Research suggests that there is a slightly higher chance of experiencing side effects, but there is no decrease in the overall benefits of receiving both vaccines simultaneously.
5. Arm Choice: It doesn’t matter which arm you receive your vaccines in. You can choose to have multiple shots in the same arm or one shot in each arm. Most people typically choose to receive it in their non-dominant arm.
6. Optimal Time: The time of day you receive your vaccine doesn’t significantly affect its effectiveness. However, some studies have shown that the COVID vaccine’s effectiveness may be slightly improved when administered around midday, and the flu shot’s antibody response may be enhanced if received in the morning.
7. Timing of Vaccination: Experts recommend getting vaccinated as soon as possible, as there is no evidence to suggest that flu immunity will wear off if vaccinated early in the fall. Everyone aged 6 months and older should prioritize getting the flu and COVID vaccines now, with the RSV vaccine coming second.
8. Arm Pain Relief: Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve arm soreness caused by vaccines. It’s not recommended to take them in advance to prevent side effects. Continuing to use and move your arm after the shot can also prevent stiffness, and applying a cool wet washcloth can alleviate pain and swelling.
9. Vaccine Availability: COVID and flu vaccines can be found in familiar locations such as pharmacies, urgent care centers, and doctor offices. Availability may vary for the RSV vaccine, with pharmacies being the more reliable option. Pediatricians and family medicine doctors are a reliable source for vaccines for children.
10. Cost and Insurance: Vaccines are typically covered by insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. For individuals without insurance, local health departments often have programs that provide free vaccines. Some public health clinics may also offer free vaccinations.
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
– Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Havey Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
– Dr. David Buchholz, senior founding medical director of primary care at Columbia University Irving Medical Center