Three shots at not getting sick

The national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated against flu by October and getting the latest anti-COVID shot. And for the first time, vaccines are available for RSV – another anticipated virus to contend with this year.

To help make that happen locally, information on where and how to get a flu shot and other vaccinations is available from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (, 253-649-1500), Seattle-King County Public Health (, 206-296-4774), the Washington Department of Health (, 800-525-0127), and,a CDC-hosted website.

Here’s what else to know:


Anyone can get sick with flu, some worse than others. People with the highest risk of severe illness include those 65 and older, children younger than 5, and pregnant women. Adults with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease also are high-risk. Medical experts say a flu shot is the best way to avoid getting the fever, cough, sore throat, and achiness that comes with the bug. The CDC and other health authorities note the potential spread of flu will likely increase in October, peak between December and January, and continue into next May. And while getting a shot early in the flu season is best, it’s not too late to do it later in the season.


Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common virus that affects lungs and makes breathing difficult. It’s more common in the spring and fall. While people of all ages can get it, the virus is worse for children under 5 years old and older adults, especially ones in poor health. The CDC has reported that RSV causes approximately 160,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths among adults 60 and older every year, and the agency recommends that older adults receive the RSV vaccination.


A new CDC-recommended COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be widely available this fall. One dose of the 2023-24 Moderna or Pfizer vaccines are urged for virtually all ages, starting at 6 months old. An alternative vaccine, Novavax, is offered for anyone unable or unwilling to go with Moderna or Pfizer. While hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 are low compared to the height of the pandemic, the virus still exists and could, like other viruses, spread this fall and winter as people spend more time indoors with others. Most people can be vaccinated for free, and if there is a cost, consumers with health insurance can have it covered through their plans.

Private medical and healthcare providers, plus pharmacies such as CVS, provide vaccinations.

Influenza claims lives annually. The 2022-23 flu season ended with 261 deaths statewide attributed to flu, according to the state Department of Health. Of those, 35 were reported in Pierce County and 57 in King County.

Next boost of Social Security likely 3 percent

The Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2024 may be about 3 percent, based on consumer price data.

The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), an advocacy organization for seniors, based the estimated increase on economic data in July. AARP, citing economic analysts at the Bipartisan Policy Center, has projected the same size COLA. 

Overall, the inflation rate in July was lower than a year ago. However, most older Americans report that persistently high prices still affect their household budgets, according to results from a new survey by TSCL.

July CPI data is important because the COLA is calculated based on inflation during the year’s third quarter (July, August, and September),as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Inflation for those three months is added together and averaged, then compared with the third quarter average from one year ago. The percentage difference between the two is the amount of the COLA, which would be payable for the check received in January 2024. 

A COLA of 3 percent would raise an average monthly benefit of $1,789 by $53.70.

For 2023, Social Security recipients received the highest COLA (8 percent) in more than 40 years. The year before that, the increase was 5.9 percent, according to TSCL’s survey in July.

Help for families and individuals dealing with dementias will be the focus of the 18th annual Pierce County Alzheimer’s Conference Oct. 7 in Tacoma.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Rainier View Christian Church, 12305 Spanaway Loop Road South.

Speakers and panels will cover topics including elder law, financial planning, hospice, caregiving, community resources, and medical equipment. One of the speakers will be Carolyn Birrell, author of “Walking with Fay,” which details her experience as an Alzheimer’s caregiver.

Registration and information is available from Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources, co-sponsor of the conference along with Health Care Providers Council of Pierce County, at 253-798-4600 and

Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad chugs again

Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad is set to resume train operations with a limited excursion schedule in September and October.

After a hiatus since 2019, the historic steam engine Polson 70 will pull two vintage passenger cars, an open-air car, and a specially outfitted baggage car serving as a concession and gift shop. The upcoming excursions will include express trips from Elbe to Mineral, as well as a series of whiskey tasting rides.

These excursions mark the first under the new ownership of Western Forest Industries Museum (WFIM), a local non-profit organization that assumed control of the railroad in August 2022 after being shut down by its former for-profit operator, American Heritage Railways.

Dating back to 1980, Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad has played a role in the economic prosperity of southern Pierce County, as well as in preserving the region’s rich local history while serving more than 1 million passengers. 

Looking ahead, WFIM officials said long-range plans involve extensive track restoration leading to Eatonville, further expanding the railroad’s reach and significance. Additionally, the organization envisions the construction of a new museum in Eatonville to house a collection of steam locomotives and logging equipment. Emphasizing a broader and more inclusive context, the museum would delve into local history and stories from long-ago logging camps, offering a lens into the human experience that shaped the rural west coast, according to Bethan Maher, executive director of WFIM.

In the spring this year, WFIM introduced RailCycle Mt. Rainier, describing it as a family-friendly way to explore the foothills of Mount Rainier. RailCycle riders pedal the historic railroad route, taking in forest and mountain views on WFIM’s four-seat RailCycles. Departing from Eatonville, the three-mile round trip operates in the summer and fall. More information is at

Information on railroad operations, including tickets and updates, is at