Vaccines could help avoid a “Tripledemic” this winter season

Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 4:12 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Last winter, emergency rooms were overcrowded with patients experiencing severe respiratory problems. They could have influenza, RSV, or COVID.

Called a “Tripledemic” it put a massive strain on our healthcare system.

“The emergency rooms last year were so busy in many cities that many patients had to wait ten hours or 12 hours sometimes over even more,” says Dr. Catherine McCarthy, Professor of Family Medicine Program at the University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine.

Our local hospitals experienced the “Tripledemic” in the late months of 2022 into 2023.

This year with the help of newly introduced vaccines a “Tripledemic” could be avoided--that is if patients take advantage of those vaccines.

The first is the annual influenza vaccine. Recommended every year as the strains contained in the vaccine change, this shot could help prevent or lessen the symptoms of influenza. Vaccines should be available starting next month. Get one sooner rather than later for full protection during the height of the flu season.

“We recommend the influenza vaccine for everyone over six months of age,” says Dr. McCarthy. “Including pregnant women at the earliest possible visit.”

New this year, the RSV vaccine is available. Recommended for patients 60-years or older, patients are asked to get this vaccine as soon as possible as protection could last throughout this season. Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control approved the vaccine for infants up to 8-months old born during or entering their first RSV season. It is also recommended for a small group of children who are entering their second year of RSV and are at high risk of complications.

The new COVID vaccine is not like the one administered a couple of years ago which contained two viruses. This new vaccine addresses a variant of the disease. Called XBB, it will contain only one virus.

“It’s called a monovalent vaccine,” says Dr. McCarthy. “Which is different than the bivalent vaccines we had previously.”

For those who have never been vaccinated against COVID, they will receive the monovalent vaccine in two doses to be considered fully vaccinated.

The COVID vaccine will probably be recommended for those over 60 who can receive the shot at a pharmacy or private physician.

However, we are still waiting for CDC final recommendations.