Trio of viruses now have trio of vaccines - here’s who should get them

Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 9:55 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Health workers are hoping to avoid a triple-whammy of viruses peaking at once, like the area saw last fall with influenza, COVID and RSV.

“They’re all respiratory viruses and they are more likely to be spread with closer contact,” said Dr. Clifton Jones, vice president for specialty services at Topeka’s Stormont Vail.

Dr. Jones says while most people who catch the viruses recover, that’s not always the case.

“All three viruses can land people, older people especially with chronic lung or heart conditions, or immunosuppressing conditions, people at advanced age, will end up in the hospital and could end up in critical care with respiratory failure,” he said.

The good news is this year, for the first time, there are FDA-approved vaccines for all three.

The influenza vaccines have long been a staple for the fall and winter season. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for most people age six months and older. Each year, experts reformulate it based on the most active strains being seen, and say this year’s vaccine is showing to be a good match so far.

Dr. Jones said people should get the flu shot by October, and especially ahead of any holiday travel.

“It’s not completely preventable, but a significant decrease in the severity of illness can be expected if people have been vaccinated,” Dr. Jones said.

Newly-approved this year are two types of RSV vaccine. Adults aged 60 and older should talk to their doctor to decide if it’s right for them. It’s also a consideration for pregnant women between 32 and 36 weeks.

“One of the two RSV vaccines is available to be given late in pregnancy to increase the protection of the baby after it’s born just from the passive transfer of maternal antibodies,” Dr. Jones said.

In addition to the new RSV vaccines, Dr. Jones said the FDA approved a new antibody treatment for young infants. He said parents should talk to their pediatrician because it’s not widely available. In addition, both it and the vaccines can be expensive, and not all insurance covers it.

Also on the fall vaccine list: the FDA and CDC just approved a new COVID booster for people age six months and older, targeting the most recent variations.

“People that have an interest in boosting their immunity should strongly consider getting the monovalent (vaccine) when it’s available,” Dr. Jones said.

Dr. Jones said he would especially recommend the new COVID booster for people working in health care or planning international travel, and those at higher risk for complications from respiratory illness.

One final vaccine people age 65 and older should talk to their doctor about is one for pneumonia.

In addition to vaccines, Dr. Jones says remember good hygiene.

“Hand washing is always the most important and, if you have a respiratory illness, it’s sort of a social responsibility to try to avoid exposing other people, so you should stay home until your symptoms start to improve,” he said.

Stormont Vail will hold its drive-thru flu shot clinics 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 21 & 28 in their surgery parking garage, SW 10th & Garfield. The clinics are for Cotton O’Neil patients age 19 and older who’ve had an influenza vaccine in past years.

Pediatric patients may get vaccinated at clinics from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 19 & 26 at Cotton O’Neil Pediatrics, 4100 SW 15th.

There are no special clinics planned for the new COVID boosters. Stormont will provide them at their retail pharmacy off SW 10th & Plass. As of Thursday night, they had not yet received them.