As we head into the fall and winter seasons, when cold weather tends to keep more people indoors, creating favorable conditions for respiratory viruses, it’s important to note that there are now three types of vaccines available to help safeguard against these infections. New formulations of COVID-19 vaccines have gained approval for both adults and children as young as six months, alongside the annual flu vaccines. Additionally, this year introduces RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) shots, which are recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for older adults and pregnant individuals in the third trimester. These RSV shots provide immunity to newborns through maternal transfer.
This expanded vaccine availability means that individuals, especially those at higher risk of severe respiratory disease, now have the necessary tools to protect themselves as we approach the winter and holiday season. If you haven’t received your flu, COVID, or RSV shot yet, there’s no need to worry – October presents an excellent opportunity to get vaccinated ahead of the colder months.
However, it’s essential to remember that not all vaccine recommendations and guidelines apply universally. Factors like age, underlying health conditions, and the timing of your last vaccine dose or positive COVID test can introduce nuances in deciding which vaccines to prioritize and when to get them.
According to Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, applying vaccination guidance to individual patients requires a personalized approach.
To help navigate these recommendations, here’s a breakdown of the vaccines and when to schedule your appointments:
For Adults in Their 60s and Older:
- COVID vaccine: Strongly recommended if it’s been two months since your last dose (or three months since your last positive COVID-19 test). You can find a nearby vaccination site on Vaccines.gov, with most insurance plans covering the cost.
- Flu vaccine: Highly recommended, with older adults advised to consider a higher-dose flu vaccine if available.
- RSV vaccine: This decision depends on your health condition and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
The CDC states that it’s safe to receive RSV, flu, and COVID-19 vaccines simultaneously. However, due to limited data on potential side effects, some may prefer to space out their vaccinations.
- Getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 during pregnancy is essential to avoid complications.
- The RSV vaccine is recommended during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy to protect both the mother and newborn.
- A new monoclonal antibody treatment called nirsevimab can further reduce the risk of RSV hospitalization for babies.
For everyone else aged six months and older, annual flu vaccination is advised, with the specific vaccine type determined by factors like age and allergies. COVID-19 booster shots are available, with a recommended wait of at least two months since the last dose or three months after a COVID-19 infection for optimal immune response.
As we transition from the COVID-19 pandemic into a phase where the virus remains a concern, the focus remains on safeguarding those most susceptible to severe illness. In addition to age, individual health factors should guide your choice of vaccination to ensure you have the best protection against the flu, COVID, and RSV, especially if you are at higher risk.
“The higher risk you are, the more you want your protection buffed up,” emphasizes Dr. Adalja.
Appointments can be scheduled by visiting Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, using the Walgreens app or calling 1-800-WALGREENS. Additional appointments will be added daily as inventory arrives at stores.