On November 22, 2023

State: Get prepared for respiratory virus season


 Fall and winter are the seasons when respiratory viruses spread more easily, and that means now is the best time to protect yourself and loved ones from serious illness and hospitalization, according to the the state Health Department, which is urging everyone 6 months and older to get this year’s Covid-19 and flu vaccines.

“Having vaccines available for three potentially dangerous illnesses can make a real impact on all our health,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “It’s a busy time of year, people are arranging travel and holiday get-togethers, and no one wants to be sick. So, let’s protect ourselves and prevent the spread of germs now and through the winter.”

Vaccines protect against severe illness and hospitalization. If you do get sick, being vaccinated can make your symptoms milder and not as long-lasting. Dr. Levine said getting vaccinated is especially important for people at higher risk of getting very sick due to certain medical conditions or weakened immune systems.

With the end of the pandemic emergency, people will get their Covid-19 vaccinations in the same locations where they receive their other routine vaccinations, such as for the flu. It’s also OK for people to get flu and Covid-19 vaccinations at the same time. These vaccines take up to two weeks to be fully effective. 

People can also talk to their doctor about new RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) immunization options for babies, people who are pregnant, and adults ages 60 and older.

Vaccinations are available by appointment at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, community health centers and clinics across the state. Adults ages 65 and older should contact their local pharmacies to schedule their Covid-19 vaccine appointments or check with their health care provider. Community and partner organizations are also offering clinics to help reach people who are homebound and others.

Health insurance will cover the cost for most people to get vaccinated. Adults without health insurance, or whose insurance does not include immunizations, can get Covid-19 vaccine at no cost through the Bridge Access Program. For more info, visit Vaccines.gov.

Dr. Levine said more doses of Covid-19 vaccine continue coming into the state, and that everyone will be able to get vaccinated. “The good news is that people want to get vaccinated, and I appreciate everyone’s patience as doses become available.”

The Health Department has also launched a new dashboard that shows how many people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and flu. As of Nov. 14, 12% of people in Vermont have received their Covid-19 vaccine, and 24% have gotten their flu shot.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the Health Dept reminds residents to practice basic good hygiene everyday.

Thus far, the Vermont Health Dept. says flu activity in the state is currently minimal but is expected to increase in the coming weeks. The number of Covid-19 hospitalizations is also low but has risen slightly in recent weeks. Nationally, respiratory virus activity has been increasing.

For more info, visit: HealthVermont.gov/MyVaccine.

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