What you need to know
- The CDC approved two RSV vaccines for adults ages 60 and older and recommends that patients talk to their doctor to determine if they should get a shot.
- The COVID-19 and flu vaccines are being updated to target currently circulating strains of their respective virus.
- The CDC is expected to provide more guidance on the coadministration of the COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines in the coming weeks.
Last winter, we experienced a “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses: COVID-19, the flu, and RSV. In order to prevent this from happening again, scientists are working to develop new and updated vaccines against these three viruses.
But news of this fall’s three-shot strategy is already sparking a surge in negative vaccine conversations and giving vaccine opponents an opportunity to spread misinformation. Below, we address some key questions and common concerns around the fall shots.
What vaccines will be available in the fall?
We are expected to have new and updated vaccines against COVID-19, the flu, and RSV this fall. Our COVID-19 vaccines are being updated to target the currently circulating Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5. Similarly, our flu shots are being updated to target more recent strains of influenza viruses. We now also have our first-ever RSV vaccines, which received CDC approval in June.
Why do we need these new and updated vaccines?
COVID-19, the flu, and RSV are all respiratory illnesses that are expected to spike in the fall and winter. Our new and updated vaccines can help lower the chance of infection and decrease the spread of the viruses across the country, preventing another tripledemic.
Who will be eligible to get the three vaccines?
We don’t know yet who will be eligible for the updated COVID-19 vaccines, but they will most likely be available to older adults and immunocompromised individuals. The annual flu shot is recommended for anyone ages 6 months and older. The new RSV vaccines will only be available to adults ages 60 and older, but an RSV vaccine for pregnant people to protect newborns is going through the FDA approval process.
All three vaccines will be especially important for older adults, who are particularly vulnerable to severe illness, hospitalization, and death if infected with any of these viruses. While RSV is most common among infants and young kids, it leads to as many as 160,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths among adults ages 65 and older every year.
Will people be able to get all three vaccines at the same time?
We don’t have enough data yet to know whether people should get all three vaccines in one appointment, but we do know that a COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot work well when given together. Some research has suggested that the RSV and flu vaccines produce lower levels of antibodies when given together, but it’s unclear exactly how much lower.
The CDC is expected to provide more guidance on the coadministration of the COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines in the coming weeks. For now, talk to your doctor about what vaccines you should get and when you should get them in order to be protected this winter.
What do we know about the new RSV vaccines?
The CDC approved two RSV vaccines last month for adults ages 60 and older. Both vaccines proved to be very effective at preventing severe illness from RSV for at least one virus season. But the CDC recommends that patients talk to their doctor to determine if they should get a shot.
The clinical trials for both RSV vaccines reported three neurological cases each, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, within 42 days of vaccination among about 40,000 people. But experts note that the trials were too small to determine whether the RSV vaccines caused those cases or the cases occurred by chance. The FDA and CDC will continue to closely monitor the RSV vaccines for adverse effects.