Health - Public Health News

Posted on: September 1, 2023

What to Know About Respiratory Viruses This Fall

It’s fall in the northwest - the days are shorter, kids are back in school, and respiratory virus season is coming. The good news going into this season is that we have new and updated vaccines against COVID-19, flu, and RSV that could make this winter a much better one in terms of fewer people getting sick and fewer people dying. 

Bottom line up front: Talk with your healthcare provider about getting these vaccines for yourself and your family. People who get the flu vaccine are up to 60% less likely to get sick with the flu. Vaccinated people who do get sick with flu are more likely to have a mild case (Source).

Vaccines against COVID-19 and RSV also help protect against getting sick and having a serious illness. 

Here’s a quick update on COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses as we say goodbye to summer.

COVID-19 in Whatcom County

COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths nationally are very low right now but are currently increasing. We know that this virus continues to be a significant cause of death, especially in older adults and immunocompromised people.  

What about the updated COVID-19 shot that is coming this fall? 

This vaccine is designed to target the recently circulating variants and will boost immune responses; helping reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. We don’t know yet exactly when the updated booster will be available, but anticipate it in September. Talk with your healthcare provider to see how you can best access the updated vaccine.  

Where can I get a COVID-19 booster shot? Will you offer vaccine clinics with the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines like the flu shot? 

Newly formulated COVID-19 boosters will be available later this fall, likely by mid to late September at pharmacies and through healthcare providers. We will also continue to host Care-A-Van clinics at the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center through the end of 2023 offering vaccines against COVID-19 and routine childhood vaccines. Visit our vaccine clinic webpage for updates.   

What if I already had COVID this summer? Should I still get a booster shot?

Multiple factors including age and pre-existing conditions affect booster timing. If it’s been 3-4 months since your last infection or COVID-19 vaccine, another booster might be right for you. Check with your medical provider about the best time to get a booster shot after recovering from the virus. They can help you decide what’s best for you based on your specific risks. The CDC states that if you recently had a COVID infection, you may consider delaying your vaccine by 3 months from when your symptoms started or, if you had no symptoms, then you may delay your vaccine by 3 months from your positive test. 

What about other respiratory viruses like flu and RSV? 

Last winter was a particularly challenging time with a significant increase in RSV hospitalizations, especially among children and the elderly. RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for kids under five. It is also a leading cause of hospitalization and death for people over 65. The good news is that we now have vaccines against RSV formulated especially for both infants and older adults. We have a great opportunity here to turn that around this winter with these new preventive tools.

In Closing

We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we can say that we appear to be in a much better place in terms of COVID-19 infections in our community than in previous years. We have more knowledge of how the virus makes people sick, more medicine to treat infection, and widely available vaccines to reduce the chances of serious illness. Now’s the time to talk with your doctor about the right vaccines for you and your family before the fall respiratory season.

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