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COVID-19, RSV, the flu: Here's what you need to know to protect yourself 

COVID-19, RSV, the flu: Here's what you need to know to protect yourself

Get ready for the triple whammy. 

As the season turns toward fall, it's time to protect yourself against the "tripledemic" of flu, COVID-19, and RSV. 

"These three respiratory viruses are or soon will be circulating," says Dr. Mark Goedecker, WellSpan Health vice president and chief medical officer for primary care. "It's time to roll up your sleeve and get the shots that will protect you and your family members as well as the vulnerable people around you from illness." 

Everyone should be vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19. RSV shots are important for older adults and infants. 

Here is a guide to what's coming this fall. 


A new COVID-19 vaccine will be available this fall, likely later this month, which protects against the XBB.1.5 variant of the virus that has caused the most infections in 2023. Health officials are waiting for the fall vaccine to be reviewed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration before it is released. Recommendations on who should get the shot  will be provided at that time. 

Though many people have had multiple COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, it is important to get the latest vaccine when the weather cools and we head indoors, where the transmission of viruses happens more easily. Across the state, COVID-19 hospitalizations have begun to tick up. 

"Getting a COVID-19 vaccine should become part of your fall routine – just like getting a flu shot," Goedecker says. "Similar to the flu shot, the vaccine likely will be updated each year to protect against the prevalent strain of the virus that is circulating among the population." 

Talk to your provider about your vaccine status and to plan how to stay up to date when this new vaccine is rolled out.  


The newest shots on the block protect against RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. 

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms but it can be very serious and cause hospitalizations and deaths rivaling the flu among older adults, especially those with chronic heart and lung disease, those with weakened immune systems, and those who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. 

RSV also can be serious in infants and is the leading cause of hospitalization for babies in the U.S., particularly among those less than 1 year old.  

An RSV vaccine is now  available for adults ages 60 and older. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says adults  60 years and older may receive a single dose of the RSV vaccine. The virus does not mutate like the flu so experts are thinking this vaccine might only be necessary every two years. 

"If you are age 60 or older, talk to your primary care provider or pharmacist about this vaccine and whether it is right for you," Goedecker says. 

Babies also can be protected against RSV, either through an injection they receive or that their pregnant mother receives. 

In August, the CDC recommended that all newborns and infants receive a monoclonal antibody injection – which is different from a vaccine – in their first RSV season. A few children who are at higher risk for severe disease would receive a second dose of the monoclonal antibody in their second RSV season. While a vaccine prompts the body to make its own antibodies, a monoclonal antibody injection delivers antibodies directly into the bloodstreamand provides durable protection for the season. 

Dr. Christopher Russo, the medical director for pediatrics at WellSpan, said, "This is an important preventive step because it can help children avoid illness and unnecessary hospitalizations. We look forward to offering this when it becomes available to WellSpan." 

The FDA also recently approved a vaccine that is administered to pregnant mothers, at 32 to 36 weeks gestation, to protect their babies from RSV through their first six months. An advisory committee to the CDC still must recommend the vaccine and provideguidance, anticipated sometime this fall.  


An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits, including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and the risk of flu-related death in children. It also helps to prevent the spread of flu to family and friends, including babies younger than 6 months who are too young to get a flu vaccine.  

The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and older. Pregnant women should get a vaccine to protect mom and baby.  

WellSpan has started to vaccinate patients. September and October are the best months to be immunized. 

The flu is a very serious illness that can pose real risks, especially to the very young, the elderly and those with underlying conditions. Last year, the flu caused between 300,000 and 650,000 hospitalizations and between 19,000 and 58,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC. 

"A vaccine protects not only you but also others you come into contact with, including the elderly, infants, and people with compromised immune systems," Goedecker said. "Stay healthy and protect others around you with a vaccine." 

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