Tis' the Season for Vaccines
Nothing takes the glow off the holidays like being sick. Vaccines are one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from certain illnesses, including the flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Plus, they can help prevent the spread of viruses to others.
To avoid missing all the holiday cheer, stay up to date with your recommended vaccinations. Recent scientific studies indicate that it is safe to get both a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same visit. Receiving the flu vaccine and the new RSV vaccines was also found to be safe in clinical trials.
Here’s a quick look at what’s currently available:
Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccine: Recommended for anyone over six months old
Because flu strains are always changing, it’s important to get a new flu shot each year.
RSV Vaccine: Recommended for adults 60 and older and infants
RSV is a common virus that causes cold symptoms including fever, runny nose, sore throat, and cough. However, for infants facing their first RSV season and adults over 60, RSV can cause severe illness, lead to hospitalization and even death.
COVID-19: Recommended for everyone 6 months and older
COVID-19 is still very much with us. However, the current variants are less likely to put healthy people in the hospital or lead to death. NOTE: Children aged 6 months to 4 years old may need additional shots to protect against some of the earlier variants, and those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised will need additional boosters of the newest vaccine.
Pneumococcal Vaccine: Recommended for children up to age 5 and children with certain health conditions and older adults
Unlike other vaccines, pneumococcal vaccines can last multiple seasons and offer protection against a family of bacteria that can lead to pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis.
Shingles Vaccine: Recommended for adults aged 50 and over
Caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, shingles is a painful—but rarely life-threatening—condition. To be effective, you must receive two doses of the vaccine roughly one month apart. The vaccine may also be recommended for individuals with a weakened immune system, certain medical conditions, or a history of shingles.
If you have questions about which immunizations you or your family members need at this time of year, contact your healthcare provider. Many have flu and pneumonia boosters and free RSV vaccines for children available.
Vaccines are also readily available at many pharmacies, including those located in grocery stores. Be sure to call ahead to find out if they take walks-ins or if you need to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Marie George, MD is an Infectious Disease Specialist in Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington, VT.