Vaccine Update: Which Ones Do You Need? Which Ones Could You (Maybe) Skip?
It’s August, that dog-day time of year when millions of us are sweating it out, coping with higher than ever temperatures. It’s also National Immunization Awareness Month, so your doctor will likely be nudging you soon to get vaccines.
What’s on the list? Brand new this year are the two vaccines approved by the FDA to protect against respiratory synctital virus or RSV. There’s also an expected COVID booster and the annual flu shot, along with the vaccines for shingles and pneumonia (if you haven’t yet gotten those).
One by one, here’s information to help you decide or at least decide what to ask your doctor.
Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, as the name implies, is a common respiratory infection that often causes mild cold-like symptoms. However, in the very young and in older adults, it can turn serious. Each year, the CDC estimates, 60,000 to 160,000 adults 65 and up are hospitalized with RSV; up to 10,000 a year die from it. The CDC recommends adults age 60 and above discuss the two approved RSV vaccines–Arexvy from GSK and Abrysvo from Pfizer—with their doctors, taking into account their health status and risks, and decide together what to do.
According to the CDC, one dose of the Arexvy vaccine was 82.6% effective and Abrysvo was 88.9% in season 1 during the clinical trials. In these studies, rare reports of inflammatory neurological issues (3 of more than 20,000 people in Pfizer trials and 3 of more than 17,000 in GSK trials) were noted; the FDA is requiring continued study of these complaints, with the CDC monitoring.
Who needs it? The decision is individual, says Aaron Glatt, MD, chair of medicine and chief of infectious diseases and hospital epidemiologist at Mt. Sinai South Nassau, Oceanside, NY. He is also a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. In general, he says, “for a healthy 65-year-old, with no underlying illness, who doesn’t smoke, there’s no rush. It’s reasonable [for that person] to get it or not.” However, he’d advise an 80-year old with serious lung disease and heart disease to get the RSV vaccine, he says.
Influenza: Flu season peaks in fall and winter, so getting a flu shot starting in September or so is a good idea, Glatt says. “You should know in your area what’s going on [with flu cases]. If there is no flu in your area [in early fall, September], you can wait.” If there is an outbreak, he encourages patients to get the vaccine. For those 65 and older, the CDC preferentially recommends certain flu vaccines, if available, so check the story in the above link.
COVID: Updated COVID vaccines are expected by fall. The FDA has instructed vaccine makers to develop ones that target XBB 1.5. More details are expected soon.
Shingles, Pneumonia and More
What else? Glatt reminds older patients to get their shingles vaccines, as that can be ‘’a really uncomfortable illness,” as well as the pneumonia vaccine. The CDC lists recommended vaccines by age, and details on each, here, https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/rec-vac/index.html.
Attention New Grandparents
New grandparents especially need the flu vaccine and to be up to date on the whooping cough vaccination, also known as pertussis.
And anyone with a cold sore should be nowhere near a newborn (or anyone else, for that matter). Cold sores in a newborn can be serious and life-threatening – don’t kiss that baby!
Keeping track of vaccines
Keeping track: A variety of apps for your phone can help you keep track of which shots you have, and which ones you don’t. Among the many choices, with no endorsement implied, are the Apple health app and MTBC PHR (for personal health record).
What technology, if any, do you use to keep track of your vaccines or other medical information? Share your favorites in the comments!
Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based independent journalist, specializing in health, behavior, fitness and lifestyle stories. Besides writing for Senior Planet, she reports for WebMD, Medscape, Psycom.net, Practical Pain Management, and other sites. She is a mom, mother-in-law and proud and happy Mimi who likes to hike, jog and shop.
Doheny photo: Shaun Newton
This article offered by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency call 911 immediately.