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Protect Yourself Against Respiratory Illnesses

Keeping families safe during these chilly months is important as cases of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and influenza are on the rise. Thankfully, we are not left defenseless against this respiratory virus triple threat, as FDA-approved vaccines are available for each.

COVID-19

As the virus causing COVID-19 changes, the vaccines to protect us from it change, too. The updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccines, released in September 2023, offer the highest level of protection against current COVID strains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone aged 6 months and older, who has not received a COVID vaccine in the past 2 months, should get a 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine.

Most Ohioans can obtain these vaccines for free. Most health insurance plans cover COVID-19 vaccines at no cost, and uninsured or underinsured individuals have access to free vaccines through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. Similarly, the Vaccines for Children program offers local providers free vaccines for qualifying children.

RSV

Mild, cold-like symptoms are a sign of RSV, but these symptoms may become more intense and lead to harsher outcomes for high-risk individuals. People at higher risk of severe RSV include newborns, young children, and older adults.

Currently, there are two licensed single-dose RSV vaccines for adults aged 60 years and older. The CDC recommends you first have a conversation with your provider about whether the RSV shot is right for you.

There also are two RSV antibody products for children. Nirsevimab is recommended for all infants younger than 8 months of age born during RSV season or entering their first RSV season. Palivizumab is used for some children younger than 24 months of age with certain conditions that put them at high risk for severe RSV. There is  one RSV vaccine, called Abrysvo, that is recommended for pregnant individuals during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy that helps to protect newborns.

For information on where to obtain these vaccines locally, reach out to your healthcare provider, local pharmacy, or local health department.

Influenza

Fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue can be telltale signs of the flu, which affects nearly a billion people worldwide every year. The CDC recommends everyone aged 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine annually.

Americans have been safeguarding themselves against influenza since 1945, when the flu vaccine was first licensed for public use. Today, this vaccine is available to everyone. The Flu Shot Finder can help you find a nearby provider.

COVID-19, influenza, and RSV vaccines may be administered during the same visit to save patients time and provide the quickest defense against this respiratory triple threat. Those age 65 and older should check with their healthcare providers before receiving multiple shots on the same visit.

The CDC recommends receiving vaccinations as soon as possible to ensure protection throughout this respiratory season.

Talk with your healthcare provider about which options are best for you. Remember, gatherings with family and friends are coming soon. After you get vaccinated, it takes the body 10-14 days to build up the best protection. For more information on vaccines, visit vaccines.gov.