Vaccinate for Winter Wellness

Waist-up view of casually dressed Black woman in late 70s sitting in family home and smiling at camera as she gestures with pride at adhesive bandage.

This year’s cold and flu season resurgence is making headlines with a vengeance. Influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all on the rise. But it’s not too late to roll up your sleeves and do something to protect yourself – vaccinate! For a resilient winter, look to these top three vaccines.

1. Tailored to combat strains anticipated during the season, the seasonal influenza (or flu) vaccine addresses four distinct flu viruses. The CDC strongly advocates for everyone aged six months or older to receive the flu shot annually, with few exceptions. Given the evolving nature of flu viruses, regular vaccination is essential. The vaccine takes about two weeks to kick in, providing a shield against infection.

For adults aged 65 and older, there’s a new higher-dose flu vaccine available, which could potentially offer superior effectiveness. There is also a nasal spray vaccine approved for healthy individuals aged 2 to 49; but certain groups, such as seniors, pregnant individuals, the immunocompromised, or those with specific medical conditions, should avoid it. Consult with your doctor to determine the most suitable option based on your profile.

2.With two main types – mRNA and protein subunit – COVID-19 vaccines play a pivotal role in fending off serious illness. The mRNA vaccine, a cutting-edge technology, instructs cells to produce a protein, triggering an immune response. Protein subunit vaccines, existing for over 30 years, use a fragment of the virus spike protein and an adjuvant to enhance the immune system’s response. The COVID-19 vaccine takes around two weeks to reach maximum effectiveness, with peak protection in the first three months post-vaccination.

A single dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine is recommended to thwart severe illness for everyone aged five and above. Immunocompromised individuals may require additional doses, while young children (six months to four years) might need multiple doses to achieve full immunization. Pfizer-BioNTech (mRNA), Moderna (mRNA), and Novavax (protein subunit) are the three approved 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccines. Importantly, the vaccines contain common food components such as fats, sugars, and salts, with no impact on or interaction with DNA.

3.Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a respiratory virus with serious effects on infants and older adults, has two licensed vaccines in the U.S.: RSVPreF3 (Arexvy) and RSVpreF (Abrysvo). These vaccines, administered as a single dose, contain a portion of the RSV virus, causing an immune response that protects against future respiratory disease.

Individuals aged 60 or older are advised to consult with their healthcare provider to determine the need for RSV vaccination. Those with weakened immune systems, chronic medical conditions, or who live in nursing homes may find the vaccine particularly beneficial. There’s no upper age limit for RSV vaccination, and even individuals with a history of RSV can benefit. Both vaccines are over 80% effective at preventing lung infections during the first season after the person gets the vaccine.

Stay well this winter by staying up to date on vaccinations. It’s never too late to invest in your health.