Flu Season

Flu Season Is Upon Us. Here’s What to Know About This Year’s Vaccines.

This year, in addition to shots for Covid and flu, there's also a vaccine for RSV.

By Megan McDonald September 20, 2023

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all Americans over the age of 6 months get at least one dose of the new Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna ahead of the 2023 flu season.

The CDC's Covid recommendation follows its advice that Americans also get vaccines to protect against the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Like the Covid vaccine, the flu shot is recommended for everyone ages 6 months or older. The RSV vaccine is primarily recommended for people 60 and older, in consultation with their primary care doctor.

Dr. Manuel Gordillo, infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at Infectious Diseases Associates in Sarasota.

Image: Alan Cresto

"Vaccines are an important tool in helping the body’s immune system fight viruses," says Dr. Manuel Gordillo, an epidemiologist with Infectious Diseases Associates in Sarasota. "Everyone needs to assess their personal risk and speak to their health care provider about any concerns."

Gordillo says that because there hasn't yet been significant flu activity this year (the season is expected to peak in December), most people can wait another month or so to get the vaccine, "unless you are in the third trimester of pregnancy or have a very young child, in which case vaccinating as soon as possible is advised," he says.

RSV, however, is another story, since there's been an uptick in cases in the Southeast—mirroring the 2022 flu season, when there was an early and severe surge in cases in the U.S.

"It's a good time for people over age 60 to discuss the vaccine with their health care provider," Gordillo says. "There's also a strong recommendation for people with chronic heart and lung conditions, who are at higher risk of complications with this virus. Two new RSV vaccines have become available, which were about 70 percent effective in clinical trials in preventing mild to moderate disease." 

Similarly, Gordillo says there's been a national uptick in Covid cases, with a number of new variants circulating. "While the vaccine is available for anyone older than 6 months of age, the recommendation is stronger for higher-risk groups, including those who are over age 65 or are pregnant or immunocompromised," he says.

As far as getting the vaccines together, experts say there's no harm in receiving the flu and Covid shots at the same time, which many people did last year. "There is a great deal of experience with the co-administration of influenza and Covid vaccines, and it resulted in no significant problems," Gordillo says. A CDC study published this summer showed people who got a flu vaccine and a Covid booster at the same time were slightly more likely to have reactions like fatigue, headaches and muscle aches than people who only got a Covid vaccine, but the reactions were mostly mild and went away quickly.

As far as the RSV vaccine, because it's new, there's not a lot of information yet about how it might interact with the other two shots. Speak to your primary care physician to tailor a vaccine schedule that's best for you.

Need Covid Tests?

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday, Sept. 20, that it is restarting a program that has provided free tests through the United States Postal Service. The website for the program, covidtests.gov, will start accepting orders on Monday, Sept. 25, and households will receive four tests.

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