The holidays bring family and friends together, but joy isn’t the only thing spreading.
The upcoming holiday season is expected to bring a spike in cases of the ongoing “tripledemic”: the flu, COVID-19 and RSV.
To get ahead of the surge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reminding Americans to take steps to protect themselves.
“We know when we get to Thanksgiving, people are going to travel, they’re going to gather, and that’s when viruses spread,” CDC Director Mandy Cohen told Health in an interview. “Right now is the best time for folks to protect themselves so they can build up those antibodies ahead of the holiday.”
Vaccines can take anywhere from 7 to 14 days to be fully effective in the body, the outlet reported, making it important to think ahead about your health before going to events.
Here are the latest updates to keep you and your loved ones healthy during the holidays.
COVID boosters recommended for everyone 6 months and older
As of Oct. 12, only 7 million Americans have gotten the newest updated bivalent COVID-19 booster shot, Reuters reported.
That’s just a small fraction of the number of Americans who received the first dose, about 81%, CDC data shows.
About 70% of Americans completed the primary series of shots, including almost 95% of adults over the age of 65, according to the report, but the numbers have dropped off each fall.
The new bivalent booster, released in mid-September and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, targets the most variants of COVID-19 to date, making it an essential step in preventing larger outbreaks.
The CDC currently recommends the newest booster to everyone over the age of 6 months, whether you’ve had any of the first round of shots or not.
Flu shots recommended for everyone
Flu shots, already part of an annual vaccination routine, are also recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months by the CDC.
This year, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made a few updates to the 2023-2024 shot to address the types of flu viruses that are prevalent this year.
It’s a quadrivalent shot, meaning it protects against a flu A(H1) virus, a flu A(H3) virus, a flu B/Yamagata virus and a flu B/Victoria virus, according to the CDC.
Updates were made to the egg-based and non-egg-based shots for a flu A virus that is expected to be prominent in this year’s cases.
Since updates are made annually, it’s important to get the shot every year, not just when you think you might be exposed to the flu either through travel or social events.
RSV vaccines recommended for those with higher risk
The CDC recently expanded its recommendations for the RSV vaccine, McClatchy News reported.
The FDA approved the first-of-its-kind vaccine for adults in May, then infants in July, before extending the approval to pregnant individuals in August.
Now, the CDC recommends everyone over the age of 60 discuss with their doctor whether the RSV vaccine is right for them.
Older adults who will be around infants and pregnant women are encouraged to get the vaccine.
For parents, the CDC recommends the vaccine during weeks 32-36 of pregnancy to protect both the mother and the child that will then be born with antibodies to fight the virus.
Another option is to give infants a preventative antibody shortly after birth, the CDC says.
Can I get COVID, flu, RSV shots at the same time?
Besides a sore arm, it is safe to get the COVID-19 booster and flu shot in a single visit to a primary care physician or pharmacy, the CDC says.
Some people experience side effects such as fatigue and headache after receiving the vaccines that could be compounded with multiple shots.
There is not adequate data to show whether it is safe to also get the RSV vaccine at the same time, the CDC says, so it’s important to talk with your doctor before doing so.
If you would like to get all three vaccines, but wish to spread them out, there is no specific waiting time between shots.
But if you have been sick or suffer side effects from one of the shots, you should wait until you have recovered before getting the next one, the CDC says.
Are the COVID booster, flu shot, RSV vaccine covered by insurance?
All three seasonal vaccines should be covered by insurance, the CDC says, including the new addition of the RSV shot.
Medicare Part B covers the COVID-19 booster and annual flu shot, but not RSV. Medicare Part D covers all three shots.
Medicaid covers all vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice through the CDC.
Children without insurance can receive free vaccines through the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program.