young African man getting a vaccine from doctor to build up or maintain immunity

PREVENT

Top things to know about this year’s “big 3” viruses

  • Long COVID symptoms include fatigue and “brain fog.”
  • Influenza contributes to an average of 30,000 deaths each year.
  • RSV is especially dangerous in newborns and elderly people.

These days, if you land in the ER with a respiratory issue, may be checked for COVID-19, flu or RSV if they are active in your area. 

They’ve been dubbed “the big three,” because each can make you sick — sometimes seriously ill.

The big takeaway: You can protect yourself and the people you love by getting the latest vaccines that are available. In most cases, you can even get them at the same time.

When you’re considering vaccinations, keep in mind the most vulnerable people in your life. Even if you think you can fight through COVID-19, flu or RSV symptoms without a vaccination, consider how a new baby in your family or your grandparent might fare. How would a sickness affect them?

About COVID

The COVID-19 shot made available in late 2023 isn’t just a booster. It’s a new vaccine more relevant to the current virus strains.

 

Besides protection from new coronavirus strains, there’s another reason to get the latest vaccine. Protection available for COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be as durable as that of other vaccines, like the ones for measles, mumps and hepatitis. 

Our immunity wanes more with the COVID-19 vaccine. Plus, the virus is still evolving, making it necessary for the foreseeable future for us to get a vaccine once a year — unless there’s a big shift within a year like when Omicron replaced Delta.

Need one more reason? A debilitating constellation of symptoms collectively called “long COVID” continues to be reported by many people who’ve had the virus.

It’s not easy to diagnose, but there seem to be some serious consequences for some people after a bout with COVID-19. The big one is a feeling that their “get up and go” got up and went and that they can’t shake “the blahs.”

Other symptoms include “brain fog,” chronic coughing, heart palpitations and more.   

About Influenza

Influenza (flu) vaccine development is a months-long process that uses clues from the southern hemisphere to determine what flu strains may invade the north. It’s a predictive, not exact, science, which means the vaccine’s effectiveness differs from season to season. This year it may be slightly better than 50% effective. 

Still, if everyone eligible gets a flu shot, the effect on overall public health can be powerful — even if you end up fighting through a bout of flu symptoms. 

 

Even though the influenza vaccine remains a percentage play, the elderly and anyone with a chronic condition are strongly encouraged to get the annual shot. Having total protection would be ideal, but 50% is still better than nothing for high-risk groups

Bottom line: With rare exceptions, everyone older than six months should get the influenza vaccine — if not for themselves for the common good.

About RSV

The acronym is short for respiratory syncytial virus, a bug that can bring on a week or so of nasty symptoms. The virus can affect anyone, but infants and older adults are especially at risk. This is why if you’re over 60 and have health issues, you should get vaccinated.

 

RSV in infants can cause an awful cough and make breathing a constant struggle. Although there isn’t a vaccine for infants, there are safeguards available. 

Mothers vaccinated for RSV in the last trimester of their pregnancy can transfer antibody protection across the placenta to help protect a newborn. For babies who are not protected by a maternal vaccine, there’s an option to receive monoclonal antibodies, which can also help defend against RSV. 

Consult your doctor for more on protecting infants.

A final thought

After getting a vaccination, if you experience some soreness at the injection site or a bit of fatigue, consider that a sign that things are working the way they should. That discomfort is your body fighting what it thinks are live invaders. It’s your immune response to the dead vaccine that’s proving your preventive measures are taking hold. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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