The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended an RSV vaccine (Abrysvo) for people in their third trimester of pregnancy in order to protect their newborns once they’re born.
RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a common respiratory virus that’s mild in most people but can cause severe illness in certain groups, particularly babies and older adults. Prior to the CDC’s recommendation for pregnant people to get an RSV vaccine, it was approved and has been available for older adults in their 60s and older, giving the most vulnerable populations tools for protection for the first time this year.
COVID-19 vaccines just recently became available, and with the addition of the annual flu vaccine, most people are recommended at least two shots this fall and winter season. And if you haven’t gotten any shots yet, don’t stress: October is great time to get optimally protected ahead of cold-weather months, when more people are spending time indoors and respiratory viruses thrive.
Here’s what to know about the COVID, RSV and flu vaccines this year and who should get each one.
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Adults in their 60s and up may get three vaccines
If you’re in your 60s or older, you have a higher risk of getting really sick from flu, COVID-19 and RSV. Here’s what the CDC says about all three recommendations for your age group.
COVID vaccine: Strong yes
You can get a new formula and single shot of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine right now, as long as it’s been two months since your last dose. To find a shot near you, enter your ZIP code in Vaccines.gov. Your insurance (private or Medicare) should cover the entire cost of the shot, but you can check with your provider to make sure you’re going to a place in-network.
If you don’t have health insurance, the shot will still be free if you book your appointment at a pharmacy participating in the Bridge Access Program, which includes many CVS and Walgreens locations. (Click the “Bridge Access Program” box when you make your appointment online.)
Flu vaccine: Strong yes
Older adults have a higher risk of severe illness from the flu. In recent years, it’s been estimated that between 70% and 85% of deaths from the flu were in people age 65 or older. Of the different flu vaccines available each year, the CDC recommends older adults get a higher-dose flu vaccine, if one’s available near you and it’s convenient to get.
RSV vaccine: Up to you and your doctor
When the CDC recommended the RSV vaccine for adults 60 and up, it did so with something called “shared clinical decision-making.” This means that while the risk of RSV isn’t identical across the age group (people with chronic health conditions, people who live in a nursing home or other care facility and people with weakened immune systems have a high risk, for example), all older adults should have the option to receive the vaccine.
If you have questions on whether you should get one, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. According to the CDC, RSV causes approximately 60,000 to 160,000 hospitalizations and 6,000 to 10,000 deaths every year among older adults.
Pregnant? You may also get three shots
Health officials have always stressed the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu during pregnancy because of the potential for complications the virus can cause. The same is true for COVID-19 — the vaccines are recommended by medical organizations that treat pregnant people and their newborns, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The RSV vaccine is recommended for use in pregnancy during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy. When it’s given during pregnancy, the antibodies will offer babies some protection in the months after they’re born. According to the CDC, the RSV vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of RSV hospitalization for babies by 57% in the first six months after birth.
The vaccine isn’t the only RSV news for people who are pregnant and their babies. Also this year, the FDA approved and the CDC recommended a new monoclonal antibody treatment for very young children that can reduce the risk of hospitalizations from RSV by up to 80%, called nirsevimab. It can be given to young children like a shot to all babies in their first RSV season, and some children 8 to 19 months in their second RSV season.
The CDC noted that most babies will only need one shot — either the maternal vaccine through their parent when pregnant or the monoclonal antibody.
Everyone age 6 months and older, with rare exceptions, should get an annual flu vaccine, according to the CDC. While there are a few different flu shots available, if you’re younger than age 65, it shouldn’t matter which one you get (save, of course, people with allergies). However, certain people (including people who are pregnant, people with weakened immune systems and other health conditions) shouldn’t get the nasal spray vaccine.
To find a flu vaccine, you can use Vaccines.gov to search for appointments and pharmacies near you.
Similarly, everyone age 6 months and older can get an updated COVID-19 shot, as long as it’s been at least two months since your last dose. If you recently had COVID-19, the CDC says you can consider waiting three months since your infection to the COVID shot. As a post from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health points out, there is research that suggests waiting a few months longer (up to six months) post-infection makes sense for some people as a way to stretch out their immunity, but it would depend on the individual, their individual risk factors and more. If you have questions about the right timing for you, talk to your doctor.
It’s also safe to get the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine at the same time.