The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) today announced that it has received its supply of COVID, influenza (flu), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccines. With this year’s early start of respiratory disease season, ACHD is encouraging all eligible residents to get their vaccinations soon.
If residents have not received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past two months, or ever, they are eligible and highly encouraged to receive the latest COVID-19 vaccine.
On September 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone six months and older get a COVID-19 vaccine that has been updated for this fall and winter to protect against potentially serious outcomes related to the virus.
Getting vaccinated remains the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death. Vaccination also reduces your chance of suffering the effects of Long COVID, which can develop during or following a bout with the illness.
The COVID-19 virus regularly produces variants and vaccine protection declines over time. Receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccine can restore protection and provide enhanced protection against the variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations in the United States.
Most Allegheny County residents can still get a COVID-19 vaccine for free. For residents with health insurance, most plans will cover the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost. Residents who don’t have health insurance or with health plans that do not cover the cost can get a free vaccine from their local Federally Qualified Health Center and the ACHD’s Immunization Clinic, located at 425 First Avenue, Fourth Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
Influenza (Flu) Vaccines
Residents are also encouraged to get their flu shot to protect against influenza during the fall and winter months, when the virus is most active. The flu vaccine can protect residents from getting the flu and help stop it from being spread to their friends, family and neighbors. The flu is a serious infection and can affect anyone, even healthy people.
The flu vaccine is a safe and reliable way to lower the risk of getting the flu. And, if a resident does get the flu, the vaccine reduces the risk of serious illness, such as hospitalizations and the need for intensive care. With other illnesses, like COVID-19 and RSV, circulating regularly during the fall and winter months it is even more important for residents to protect themselves by getting vaccinated against the flu.
“I have had several conversations with patients asking me if they can get the various respiratory disease vaccines at the same time,” remarked ACHD medical director Dr. Barbara Nightingale. “And, the answer is ‘yes,’ getting more than one of these vaccines at the same time is just up to someone’s personal preference.”
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Vaccines
Besides the updated COVID-19 vaccine, for the first time, a vaccine for RSV is available for older residents. A long-acting antibody injection to prevent RSV is now also available to protect young children. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, like COVID-19 and flu. People can get infected at any age. Most people recover quickly without medical care, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults, who may need to be hospitalized. RSV typically begins increasing in October and peaks in December.
RSV spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or breathes out droplets that contain the virus. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or on a surface that others may touch. RSV can survive for many hours on hard surfaces, such as tables and crib rails, but lives on soft surfaces such as tissues and hands for shorter amounts of time.
The RSV vaccine is available to adults 60 years and older, and the preventive long-acting antibody injection (nirsevimab) is available for infants and some young children. Residents should talk with their health care provider to see if these options are right for them or their child.
“For decades, the flu has been the main concern in terms of infectious diseases during the fall and winter months, but with the uptick in RSV last year and the emergence of the COVID-19 virus, respiratory disease season has become more challenging for residents,” explained ACHD chief epidemiologist Dr. LuAnn Brink. “The best defense residents can take against all three diseases is to get vaccinated.”
Residents can obtain the COVID-19, flu and RSV vaccines at their health provider, local pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers and the ACHD’s Immunization Clinic. Residents can book an appointment online by visiting MyChart or calling 412-578-8062. Walk-ins are welcome. Visit the clinic website for information on location, hours, and services.
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