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Recommendations and timing for flu, COVID, and RSV vaccines


Last year, hospitals had to deal with a simultaneous surge of patients who had COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), some infected by more than one of them, but now we have vaccines for all three. To provide the best protection, experts have worked out the most effective timing for receiving all of these vaccines.

This article will get you up-to-date on what are these three vaccines plus how they should be spaced out.

covid vaccine on blue surface
Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

What are the RSV, COVID-19, and flu vaccines?

Most of you are probably knowledgeable about COVID-19 and the flu, and you are all probably aware of vaccines for both. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) isn’t a new disease, like COVID-19, and it has long caused respiratory infections. And a new vaccine for it has just been developed.

RSV is a common respiratory virus. It usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. But it can cause serious lung infections, especially in infants, older adults, and people with serious medical problems.

RSV spreads from person to person through:

  • The air by coughing and sneezing.
  • Direct contact, such as kissing the face of a child who has RSV.
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.

Individuals who are most at risk of severe illness from RSV will have access to vaccines that will protect against it. In May 2023, the FDA approved vaccines from Pfizer and GSK that are indicated for adults 60 and older. In July 2023, the FDA also approved a drug jointly developed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi to prevent the illness in children 24 months and younger.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has already recommended the RSV vaccine for adults, and they will meet in August 2023 to potentially recommend the newest approved vaccine for children.

For the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC makes the following recommendations:

The current seasonal flu vaccine is beginning to be available at this time at healthcare facilities in the USA (and probably other countries in the Northern Hemisphere). The vaccine protects against four different types of flu that are known to be circulating in the Northern Hemisphere this flu season.

Timing of the RSV, flu, and COVID-19 vaccines

Although it would be nice if you could get all three vaccines together, it’s not going to be that easy. The CDC and FDA have good evidence that the flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be given together before those two viruses begin to become prevalent in the fall.

That’s because there is limited evidence flu and RSV vaccines could reduce the effectiveness of the other when administered together.

Thus, experts are recommending that you get the RSV vaccine a bit later or before you receive the COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

At this time, this recommendation is for individuals 60 years and older, but by next week, that recommendation will probably expand to include children under 18 (if the clinical trial data indicates a high degree of safety and effectiveness for that age group).

Summary

I do believe that vaccine hesitancy for these three vaccines would be much less if healthcare workers could give all three at once. Unfortunately, there are no completed studies that included all three (though there are several underway at this time), so the RSV vaccine should be given at another time.

The flu, RSV, and COVID-19 can cause severe respiratory diseases in children, seniors, and those with other comorbidities, such as previous lung disease. The severity of these diseases should not be ignored, and now that we have vaccines for all three, it’s time to consider getting them if you fit in a susceptible group (although technically, it won’t be available for children until ACIP makes the recommendation).

These vaccines are safe. They are effective. That’s settled science.

Michael Simpson

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