Amidst the excitement of heading back to school, football season and pumpkin spice-flavored everything, it is easy to forget that fall is also the recommended time for several vaccines.
This year, it seems like there are more vaccine recommendations than ever before, including an updated COVID-19 vaccine, the 2023 flu shot and a newly approved vaccine against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV.)
We asked Ad Interim Chief Infection Control Officer Amy Spallone, M.D., what we should know about these vaccines.
New this year, individuals over the age of 60 can also receive a vaccine protecting against RSV. The CDC says mild RSV symptoms are similar to common cold symptoms; however, serious cases of RSV can occur, especially among older adults and infants.
Spallone says that eligible adults should work with their care team to decide if they need the RSV vaccine.
“Health care providers and their patients should have a conversation to determine if RSV vaccination will be beneficial,” Spallone says.
Can I get COVID, flu and RSV vaccines at the same time?
“Per the CDC, there is no recommended waiting period between getting a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines,” Spallone says. “You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, like the flu vaccine, at the same visit.”
If you are eligible for an RSV vaccine, the guidance on getting it alongside your flu shot or updated COVID-19 vaccine is less clear.
“Since this is the first season the RSV vaccine is available, there aren’t any formal studies on co-administering the RSV vaccine with either the flu or COVID-19 vaccines. Just remember that the RSV vaccines are not broadly recommended for everyone, like flu and COVID-19 vaccines are,” Spallone says.
If you do opt to get your flu and COVID-19 vaccines during the same appointment, the CDC writes you can either receive a vaccine in each arm, or receive both vaccines in the same arm, but in different spots.
Why are these vaccines recommended now as opposed to other months of the year?
Three vaccines becoming available around the same time may seem overwhelming, but the timing isn’t accidental.
The flu and RSV vaccines are offered in the fall because it is when their protections are needed the most.
“In general, fall and winter are the seasons when viruses that cause respiratory disease usually circulate more heavily in the community,” Spallone says.
And, with COVID-19 still circulating and evolving, the updated vaccine offers protection against the newest variants, including EG.5, FL.1.5.1 and other variants in the XBB family.
Should cancer patients or those who are immunocompromised get these vaccines?
When we asked Spallone whether cancer patients should get the COVID-19, flu and RSV vaccines, she included the same advice for each vaccine: when in doubt, talk to your doctor.
Here is what else she said about the CDC’s recommendations for each vaccine.
Flu vaccine: The CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone 6 months and older, with few exceptions. Patients who are elderly or immunocompromised may be eligible for a high-dose flu vaccine and should discuss this with their providers.
RSV vaccine: The CDC recommends that adults 60 years and older receive RSV vaccination, especially if they have underlying medical conditions that may weaken their immune system.
COVID-19 vaccine: The CDC recommends the COVID-19 vaccine for moderately to severely immunocompromised patients, but the number of recommended shots depends on prior vaccination history. Patients should discuss this with their providers who know their medical history and vaccine record.
Why do you personally choose to get vaccinated?
Patient safety drives Spallone’s personal decision to receive the vaccines she is eligible for.
“Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death,” she says. “We must do everything we can to ensure that when our patients come to the hospital, they are safe and protected from infections that we might inadvertently bring to work with us."