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Fall Vaccination Update: New COVID-19 And RSV Vaccines Set To Tackle Triple Threat

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(CTN NEWS) – New and improved COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon, perfectly timed to coincide with the administration of flu shots.

Furthermore, this autumn marks the introduction of the inaugural vaccines targeting another concerning virus known as RSV, which will be made available to older adults and pregnant women.

Medical professionals are optimistic that a sufficient number of individuals will opt for vaccination, thereby mitigating the risk of a repeat of the dreaded “tripledemic” witnessed last year.

During that challenging period, hospitals were inundated with a premature flu season, a surge in cases of RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), and yet another winter wave of coronavirus infections.

While COVID-19 hospitalizations have been steadily rising since late summer, the increase is not nearly as pronounced as it was during the same period last year. Additionally, RSV is already seeing an uptick in parts of the Southeastern United States.

The approval of updated COVID-19 vaccines is anticipated within a matter of days.

These vaccines represent one of the many tools that the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes will significantly enhance the nation’s preparedness to navigate another potentially chaotic respiratory season, placing the United States in its most robust position to date.

“We anticipate a significant presence of the virus this winter. That’s why we’re proactively addressing it,” stated Dr. Mandy Cohen, the head of the CDC.

Here’s what you should know about the upcoming fall vaccinations:

Why Are Additional COVID-19 Shots Necessary?

The ever-evolving coronavirus is here to stay. Similar to the annual updates to flu shots, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided new guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers for this fall.

These updated vaccines focus on a single target, an omicron descendant named XBB.1.5.

This represents a substantial change, as the COVID-19 vaccines available since last year were combination shots targeting the original coronavirus strain and a much earlier omicron version, rendering them outdated.

Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have all formulated new supplies.

The FDA is soon expected to assess whether each company meets safety, efficacy, and quality standards. Subsequently, the CDC must grant approval before the vaccination campaign commences.

A CDC advisory panel is scheduled to convene on Tuesday to provide recommendations on the optimal utilization of these latest shots.

Earlier this month, European regulators authorized Pfizer’s updated vaccine for this fall, for both adults and children as young as 6 months.

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Will They Be Effective Enough?

Health officials are cautiously optimistic, barring the emergence of a new variant.

As anticipated, XBB.1.5 has diminished in prevalence during the time taken to refine the vaccine. Presently, there exists a variety of coronavirus variants causing illness, with the most common ones closely related.

Recent laboratory tests conducted by vaccine manufacturers and other research groups suggest that the updated shots will offer cross-protection.

Previous vaccinations or infections have continued to provide protection against severe disease and death, but immunity diminishes over time, particularly against milder infections as the virus evolves.

While the FDA did authorize an additional booster dose for seniors and high-risk individuals last spring, most Americans haven’t received a vaccination in about a year.

“The most effective way for individuals to maintain a normal way of life is to continue receiving their booster shots,” advised David Montefiori, a vaccine expert at Duke University.

Who Else Should Receive Flu Vaccine?

The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for virtually everyone aged 6 months and older, preferably by the end of October.

Similar to COVID-19, influenza can pose significant risks to specific populations, including young children, older adults, and individuals with compromised immune systems, lung or heart conditions.

Various types of flu vaccines are available, including a nasal spray version for select younger individuals. More importantly, there are three specific shots recommended for seniors, as they have proven to enhance the immune response in older adults.

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Can I Receive Flu Shot And COVID-19 Shot Simultaneously?

Yes. The CDC confirms that there is no difference in effectiveness or side effects when both vaccines are administered simultaneously, although receiving one in each arm may be more comfortable.

What Is This New RSV Vaccine?

RSV is a cold-like ailment for most people and is not as well-known as the flu. However, RSV inundates hospitals every winter and can be life-threatening for children under 5, the elderly, and those with specific high-risk health conditions.

It is notorious for causing inflammation in babies’ small airways, leading to wheezing, and is also a common cause of pneumonia in seniors.

RSV vaccines from GSK and Pfizer have been approved for adults aged 60 and older. The CDC advises seniors to consult their healthcare provider about receiving the one-dose shot.

The FDA has also approved Pfizer’s RSV vaccine for administration late in pregnancy, allowing mothers to pass on protection to their newborns. CDC recommendations on this usage are expected later this month.

Additional guidance will be provided on whether RSV vaccines should be administered in conjunction with flu and COVID-19 shots.

What Abut Babies And RSV?

This fall, parents may encounter another new option: an injection of laboratory-made antibodies to shield babies from RSV.

This differs from a traditional vaccine, which instructs the body to produce its own infection-fighting antibodies, but it offers similar protection.

The FDA recently approved Beyfortus, developed by Sanofi and AstraZeneca. This one-dose treatment is recommended for all infants under 8 months old before their first RSV season.

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