The Importance of Getting Your Flu, COVID-19, and the New RSV Vaccines
Every year, the healthcare community emphasizes the importance of getting your flu shot, and this year is no exception. In addition to flu, COVID-19 and RSV can be dangerous, so it's important to stay vigilant and take precautionary measures to help everyone stay safe.
Why should I get the flu shot?
The flu shot or flu vaccine, is formulated each year to help protect people against severe infection from the flu. By protecting yourself, you are also helping protect the community as well.
Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The coronavirus strain that we know as COVID-19 is similar to the virus that causes flu, in that it shifts a little bit all the time. The 2023-2024 Formula COVID-19 vaccine is updated for the more recent strain of COVID-19 (Omicron variant XBB.1.5). On September 12, 2023, this vaccine was recommended for all persons six months and older.
Getting flu and COVID-19 vaccines create a bit of a "domino effect." The more people who are protected against flu and COVID-19 infections means the viruses will be less likely spread to more vulnerable populations, which in turn means that the healthcare systems are less likely to be overburdened by the number of patients who need hospital-level care for flu or COVID-19.
The COVID-19 vaccines available are made by Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax.
Who should get flu and COVID-19 vaccines?
The short answer is anyone who can! That means anyone six months of age or older—both the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines are approved for children ages six months—who are able to get the vaccines. Certain groups of people should make it a priority to get the vaccines if they can, including:
- people over the age of 65
- children between the ages of six months and 19 years (both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are safe for young children)
- people who are pregnant
- people who are in nursing homes or group homes, including the staff who work there
- healthcare workers
- people with chronic medical conditions--talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about getting these vaccines with your conditions
Can I get the flu shot, COVID-19 and RSV vaccines at the same time?
Absolutely! There are no side effects from getting the shots at the same time, aside from the fact that both your arms may be sore for a day or two. Getting vaccines reduces your risk of co-infection (meaning having more than one infection at a time—such as flu and COVID-19, or COVID-19 and RSV, at the same time) and helps protect you and your community, so save yourself a trip and get the shots in one visit if you can.
The RSV vaccine is a new vaccine made available for the first time this year. This vaccine helps protect against another respiratory virus that is especially dangerous to young children and older people. The RSV vaccine is currently recommended for people aged 60 and above, and is also recommended to be given during pregnancy.
Getting the flu shot, RSV and COVID-19 vaccines can help save lives—including yours! Call your primary care physician or local pharmacy to schedule your vaccinations.
About the Author:
Karen Tashima, MD
Dr. Karen Tashima is the director of clinical trials at the Immunology Center. She was the principal investigator at The Miriam Hospital for the development of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Tashima served on the Rhode Island Governor's COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee in 2021.
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