3 respiratory viruses in Florida and a vaccine for each. Should you get all 3?
The short answer is yes, but a Central Florida expert weighs in on how you should receive the vaccines this season ahead of another possible "tripledemic"
Is another "tripledemic" in the cards for Florida?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is predicting that could be the case for the upcoming winter and respiratory virus season. If so, even an average respiratory season could significantly strainthe health system.
Last year, the country's faced the threat of a "tripledemic" of flu, RSV and COVID-19.
But unlike last year, some adults can receive protection from all three viruses with the development of a new RSV vaccine.
The RSV Vaccine
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus for the first time. Arexvy was given a green light for ages 60 years and older.
RSV is troublesome for seniors as well as kids, but no vaccine has been approved for children.
Arexvy comes at a good time in Florida, where RSV is not seasonal but persists all year long. The illness is particularly problematic for the state's high-density population of seniors, said Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the University of Central Florida.
"I always think of this RSV vaccine in terms of grandparents who may be interacting with their younger grandkids," she said. "They're protected if their grandkids get sick, but they're also protecting their grandkids from getting sick from them."
However, seniors aren't the only demographic who can benefit from the RSV shot, Prins said.
“The vaccine can also be given to women who are pregnant, and it gives protection to their child after the child is born, which is a critical time for that child if they get infected with RSV that can be really serious for them,” she said.
What about COVID?
Currently, Florida COVID rates have dropped since peaking in August but remain high with a positivity rate of 16%. Orlando Health confirmed an increase in the Central Florida area but hasn't seen a rise in hospitalizations.
Cases are expected to increase during the winter months, according to the CDC.
This month, a new mRNA COVID vaccine was approved and has been distributed. The building blocks of it resemble that of the flu vaccine with respect to predicting the viral strain scientists believe will be most common this season.
And while the stage for vaccines gets more crowded, there is, of course, the yearly flu vaccine.
Prins recommends getting all three vaccines, but not at once.
“That's not necessarily recommended. You can get your flu shot and your COVID-19 shot at the same time. Maybe wait a few weeks before getting your RSV,” she said.
Evidence from last year shows COVID and flu vaccines work well together, but there is no evidence as to how the RSV shot would play with the other two given at the same time. However, experts do not foresee any big problems in getting all three together.
At the least, you may face a very sore arm, Prins said.
"I prefer to get vaccines separately, not because I'm worried about any other type of side effect, but just because I want to make sure I've got one arm really good and ready to play tennis," Prins said.
The flu and RSV vaccines are available at most pharmacies. Those looking for a COVID vaccine location can find one atvaccine.gov.
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