Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine recently appeared on NBC5 In Depth to discuss the upcoming flu and COVID-19 season and how Vermonters can prepare.
Dr. Levine emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated, as updated vaccines for both the flu and COVID-19 will soon be available. He recommended that everyone aged six months and older should get the COVID-19 vaccine, while highlighting that certain individuals, such as those with immunosuppressing conditions or individuals over the age of 65, should especially prioritize getting vaccinated. He also mentioned the option of receiving both the flu and COVID-19 shots at the same time for efficiency and convenience. While the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine are separate, they can be administered together if desired.
Regarding COVID-19 variants, Dr. Levine explained that the new annual COVID-19 vaccine is designed to target the 0.1.5 variant that was circulating in June. Although there have been newer variants, like the B.1.617 lineage, he reassured that the vaccine should be equally effective against these variants. He specifically mentioned the B.1.86 variant, which has gained some attention, but preliminary data suggests that it is no more immune evasive than other variants.
Dr. Levine also addressed the cost of the vaccines. Individuals with health insurance can receive the vaccine for free, as it will be covered by insurance. For those who are uninsured or underinsured, the government’s Bridge Access Program can provide the COVID-19 vaccine for free. Health centers, large pharmacy chains, and local health offices are participating in the program to ensure access for this population.
Lastly, Dr. Levine briefly discussed respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), another respiratory virus. He mentioned that there is a monoclonal antibody available for infants, which can be ordered and administered by pediatricians. Older children between the ages of eight and 17 months can also be immunized against RSV.
In conclusion, Dr. Levine stressed the importance of getting vaccinated for both the flu and COVID-19. With the flu and COVID-19 season already underway, it is crucial for individuals to take proactive measures to protect their health.
– NBC5 In Depth: Mark Levine provides fall flu, COVID-19 season check-in