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 (tpchd.org, 253-649-1500), Seattle-King County Public Health (kingcountywa.gov, 206-296-4774), the Washington Department of Health (doh.wa.gov, 800-525-0127), and vaccines.gov,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.