3 respiratory viruses in Central Florida & 3 vaccines. Should you get all 3?
Is another tripledemic in the cards for Central Florida?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is predicting that could very well be the case for the upcoming winter and respiratory virus season. Last year, Central Florida as well as the country's healthcare system faced the threat of a tripledemic comprised of Flu, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), and COVID-19.
But unlike last year, there are vaccines for all three viruses.
With three competing respiratory viruses, the CDC is concerned that even an average respiratory season could significantly strain the American health system. This year, adults can receive protection from all three viruses with the development of the new RSV vaccine.
The RSV Vaccine
Earlier this year, the FDA approved Arexvy — the first RSV vaccine approved in the U.S.. Arexvy was approved for adults 60 years and older. RSV is troublesome for seniors, as well as kids, but no vaccine has been approved for younger demographics just yet.
Arexvy comes at a good time in Central Florida, where RSV is not seasonal but persists all year long. That's particularly problematic for Florida's high-density
population of seniors, said Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the University of Central Florida.
"I always think of this RSV vaccine in terms of grandparents who may be interacting with their younger grandkids," she said. "They're protected if their grandkids get sick, but they're also protecting their grandkids from getting sick from them."
However, seniors aren't the only demographic who can benefit from the RSV shot, Prins said.
“The vaccine can also be given to women who are pregnant and it gives protection to their child after the child is born, which is a critical time for that child if they get infected with RSV that can be really serious for them,” she said.
What about COVID?
Currently, Florida COVID rates have dropped since peaking in August, but remain high with a new case positivity rate of 16%. Orlando Health confirmed an increase of COVID cases in the area but hasn't seen a rise in hospitalizations.
Cases are expected to increase during the winter months, according to the CDC.
Earlier this month, the new MRNA COVID vaccine was approved and has been distributed. The building blocks of it resemble that of the flu vaccine with respect to predicting the viral strain scientists believe will be most common this season.
And while the stage for vaccines gets more crowded there is of course the Flu vaccine.
Prins recommends getting all three vaccines, but not all at once.
“That's not necessarily recommended. You can get your Flu shot and your COVID-19 shot at the same time. Maybe wait a few weeks before getting your RSV,” she said.
Evidence from last year shows COVID and Flu vaccines work well together, but there is no evidence as to how the RSV shot would play with the other two vaccines given at the same time. Although, experts do not foresee any big problems in getting all three together.
At the very least, however, you stand to face a very sore arm taking all three, Prins said.
"I prefer to get vaccines separately, not because I'm worried about any other type of side effect, but just because I want to make sure I've got one arm really good and ready to play tennis," Prins said thinking of her off-the-clock tennis serve.
The Flu and RSV vaccines are available at most pharmacies. Those looking for a COVID vaccine location can find one atvaccine.gov.
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