Vaccine rates for adults remains low and RSV immunizations for babies in short supply
This winter marks a milestone in public health. It’s the first time vaccines are available for three major respiratory viruses: flu, COVID-19 and RSV. But fewer than half of Virginians have been vaccinated this season, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
Last year, the federal Drug Administration approved several different vaccines and immunizations for RSV, a respiratory virus, and the leading cause for babies to be hospitalized.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults over 60 and babies under eight months get an RSV immunization. Another vaccine is also recommended for pregnant women, which can help protect their baby after they are born.
Demand from parents to get their babies immunized has been high, said Lisa Lee, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Virginia Tech.
“It’s frustrating for families that can’t get it,” Lee said.
They can’t get it because supply is so low. Health departments and hospitals in Virginia are now reserving RSV immunizations for the most at-risk infants.
Many adults, on the other hand, are choosing not to be vaccinated. Adults over 60 are at high risk of developing serious complications from RSV, but only 14 percent of these Virginians have gotten the vaccine.
According to VDH, four out of every ten Virginians have received either an annual flu or COVID shot this season—lower than health experts had hoped, said Lee.
“All three of these respiratory viruses hit the youngest and oldest worst,” Lee said.
Most health experts advise getting an annual COVID and flu shot, even if you’ve been vaccinated in previous years.
The peak season for all three respiratory illnesses is expected to continue for the next few months, and Lee said one of the best ways to protect the most vulnerable people is to stay home when respiratory symptoms appear.
“If you are not feeling well, stay away from other people. If you have a fever, definitely stay away from other folks,” Lee said.