Respiratory Virus Vaccine Guide for 2023-2024: Flu, COVID-19 & RSV

October 6, 2023

We strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to receive vaccinations during this respiratory virus season to protect yourself and others. There are now three vaccines for respiratory virus infections available this year: influenza (flu shot), COVID-19, and RSV
(respiratory syncytial virus), which is the newest vaccine that was released this year.

The general recommendation from public health authorities:

  • The flu and COVID-19 vaccines should be taken by all those who are 6 months of age or older.
  • The RSV vaccine should be taken by those who are 60 years of age or older, especially if they have heart or lung conditions.

Respiratory virus vaccines FAQ:

Influenza vaccine (the flu shot)

Why you should consider getting it

  • To protect yourself and others. The flu may be a mild disease in healthy young people but in older adults or in those with health problems it can be deadly and getting the vaccine can not only protect yourself but also high-risk older people with whom you may come in contact, including other at-risk family members.
  • Although the flu vaccine might not protect completely against getting influenza, it often is protective against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

Who should get the flu shot

  • Anyone who is 6 months of age or older.
  • Strongly recommended for those at high risk of severe complications from the infection, including young children, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women, individuals with chronic medical conditions or with immune compromised conditions.

When to get the flu shot

  • It is best to get the flu vaccine beginning in September or October before flu season starts in New Jersey, which is usually in November or December.

What flu shot you should get

  • There are several flu vaccines that are available and effective.
  • For those 65 years and older, a High-Dose flu-blocker fluid vaccine is recommended as it has been shown to offer better protection in older age groups.

COVID-19 vaccination

Why you should consider getting it

  • Although the currently circulating COVID-19 variants appear to be not as serious as past variants, there are still 500-700 deaths per week from COVID-19.
  • The new COVID-19 vaccine is different from the bivalent boosters in the past (that protected against both the original strain and a later subvarient).
  • The updated vaccines are mRNA monovalent that target and protect against the current COVID circulating variants and therefore will be effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths.

Who should get the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Anyone 6 months of age or older, especially those who are immunocompromised.

When to get the COVID-19 vaccination

  • The new COVID-19 vaccine is available now and is protective against the current circulating variants.

What COVID-19 vaccine you should get

  • There are two new mRNA COVID-19 vaccines now available – one each from Pfizer and Moderna.
  • A new protein-based non-mRNA vaccine called Novavax, which has now been approved.

RSV vaccine (for respiratory syncytial virus)

Why you should consider getting it

  • RSV is a highly contagious virus that causes upper respiratory infections. Although RSV primarily infects infants and children, RSV can cause infection in anyone. In younger healthier populations it often presents as a common cold or bronchitis. However, in infants and older adults, it can lead to severe disease.
  • In the infant population, RSV leads to 100-300 deaths each year.
  • It also is a frequent cause of hospitalization for patients age 65 and older, particularly if there are other health problems. It is estimated that RSV may cause 120,000-170,000 admissions to hospitals each year and an estimated 10,000 deaths in the United States.

Who should get the RSV vaccine

  • Adults 60 years and older, especially those with underlying heart or lung disease as they are at the greatest risk for serious illness.
  • RSV vaccine is also recommended for pregnant women between 32-36 weeks of pregnancy so that their babies will be protected through the first six months after birth.

What RSV vaccine you should get

  • There are two vaccines now available, one from Glaxo and the other from Pfizer. Both are about 80% effective in preventing illness. 
  • There is currently no information available on whether boosters will be needed or how frequently they should be administered.

General comments on respiratory virus vaccines

  1. Insurance: Medicare and Medicaid, and likely most private insurers, will cover the cost of these vaccines without copays. But since they are new, checking your coverage with your private insurance provider may be appropriate.
  2. Benefits outweigh the side effects: All vaccines can have rare side effects or cause 1-2 days of low-grade fever, muscle aches, and pain at the injection sites. However, especially with the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines, experience has shown that these vaccines are safe and serious side effects are extremely rare. The benefits far outweigh the risks.
  3. You may consider spacing out when you get the vaccines: You can get one or more of these vaccines together, but especially if you have had side effects with the flu or COVID-19 vaccines in the past, it may be best to space out these vaccines. Since we are now experiencing a small surge of COVID, and RSV and flu seasons generally begin in November, it is reasonable to get the COVID vaccine as soon as possible and the flu and RSV vaccines by the end of October.

If you have any further questions about these vaccines, please do not hesitate to call ID Care at 908-281-0610.

Infectious Disease Blog