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HEALTH

Who should get them and when

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Winter is coming, and with it updated versions of the vaccines we’ll need to bolster up our immune systems against illness.

“There are going to be three vaccines people need to consider, depending on their age and situation,” says Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah and director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

 

As always, doctors suggest getting your flu shot this year. But there’s also a new Covid vaccine, which was recommended for everyone aged six months and older by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, that could benefit you as the temperature drops as well.

“The third is the RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) vaccine. It’s the newest, in many ways, it’s the most exciting because we haven’t been able to do anything about protecting either adults or most young infants from RSV,” Pavia tells CNBC Make It.

Here’s what you should know about each vaccine as we prepare for a possible “tripledemic” this fall and winter.

1. The flu shot

“For everyone, you need to think about influenza vaccines. It’s recommended for everyone six months and older,” says Pavia. “There’s a real benefit to anyone of any age.”

Groups that are most at-risk of severe complications from the flu, according to the CDC, include:

 

  • Children under the age of five, especially ages two and younger
  • People aged 65 and older
  • Those with certain medical conditions like diabetes, asthma and heart disease
  • Pregnant people

“But even for people with none of those risk factors, you can end up quite ill with influenza, and there’s really no rhyme or reason who ends up in the ICU versus who has a mild case,” he adds.

When should you get your flu vaccine? Pavia suggests getting your flu shot between early September and late October. “You’re fine to get your vaccine in early September, (but) waiting until October may give you a little more protection against the late flu season,” he adds.

How much will it cost? The costs of flu shots are typically covered by most insurance companies, and are often administered for free through many community programs, says Pavia.

Don’t miss: Is it a cold, the flu or Covid-19? It can be hard to determine without testing—this chart may help narrow it down

2. Updated Covid vaccines

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the new Covid vaccine, which will target a variant of Omicron called XBB.1.5. The CDC must approve the vaccines before they can be distributed to the public, but the Biden administration said in August that the shots are expected to be available by mid-September, CNBC reports.

“You could call it a new booster, but now as we move into the annual update cycle, it’s just the appropriate vaccine for this year,” Pavia tells CNBC Make It.

Similar to the flu shot, we’re shifting into a phase where we can expect updated Covid vaccines every year for protection against anticipated surges of the virus in the winter.

“The updated vaccines are expected to provide good protection against COVID-19 from the currently circulating variants,” the FDA wrote in a release on Monday.

When should you get your updated Covid vaccine? You should aim to get the new Covid shot in the early fall, unless you’ve gotten a booster shot recently or had Covid not too long ago. If you’ve gotten a booster shot or had Covid recently, you should wait for two to three months before getting the updated Covid vaccine, says Pavia.

How much will it cost? Now that the updated Covid vaccine is recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), it will likely be covered by insurance. “But it’s no longer going to be a government vaccine given for free,” says Pavia. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a program that helps uninsured or underinsured Americans get access to Covid vaccines for free, he adds.

Don’t miss: The next Covid booster is on the horizon: Will the vaccine be covered by insurance?

3. The new RSV vaccine

Respiratory syncytial virus is a “common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms,” according to the CDC. Infants and adults 60 and older are most at risk for severe outcomes from RSV, the agency noted.

Babies aged 8 months and younger are strongly recommended to receive an RSV immunization, but some older babies may also have a higher risk of complications from the virus, the CDC said.

Older adults, and people with heart and lung disease, should also consider getting the RSV vaccine, says Pavia.

When should you get the RSV vaccine? RSV season usually starts in October, says Pavia, and it’s best to receive the vaccine as soon as it’s available for the most protection.

How much will it cost? “Because the ACIP gave a softer recommendation to the RSV vaccine, coverage is going to be variable,” says Pavia.

For those with certain Medicare plans, the RSV vaccine should be covered, specifically under a Part D plan. If you don’t have drug coverage, you could have a substantial co-pay for it, he adds. Some people over the age of 60 have been met with bills of more than $300 for their RSV vaccines, according to The New York Times.

“Private insurance could cover it, but they’re not legally required to do it for 12 months. So your insurance company might or might not cover it,” Pavia says.

As a disclaimer, the CDC says it is safe to get your flu shot and Covid vaccines at the same time, but guidance hasn’t been shared yet about if it’s recommended to get your RSV vaccine alongside the other two shots.

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