The majority of eligible Americans have not received an updated Covid vaccine, flu shot, or RSV shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the country heads toward a busy holiday season with spikes in travel and gatherings, but experts say now is the time people should consider getting the shots.
The CDC advised Americans to getting all recommended vaccines as soon as possible to provide some form of protection as they head into the holiday season, and as the health agency seeks to avoid a spike in the so-called tripledemic, a term for Covid, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus cases all spiking at once.
When people travel and gather for holidays like Thanksgiving, “that’s when viruses spread,” CDC director Mandy Cohen told Health.com, so it’s best to get vaccinated beforehand to “build up those antibodies.”
However, most Americans haven’t received their vaccines: Only 14.8% of adults 18 and older have received an updated monoclonal Covid shots, 36.3% have gotten their flu shots and only 14.3% of eligible adults 60 years or older have gotten their RSV vaccines, according to recent data from the CDC.
Compared to last year around this time, 38.4% of adults received their flu vaccine and 23.2% of adults had the most up-to-date Covid vaccine, while the RSV vaccines were first approved earlier this year.
These numbers are even lower in children: 4.9% of children 17 and younger received the most up-to-date Covid vaccine compared to 10.7% around this time last year, and 35.1% of kids have the latest flu vaccine compared to 39.1% last year.
Almost 50% of adults say they don’t plan on getting the new Covid vaccine—which first became available in September—and around 75% say they’re “not too worried,” or “not at all worried” about getting Covid over the holidays, according to a survey from health policy research organization KFF.
6,484,329. That’s how many Covid-related hospitalizations were reported in the week ending on November 11, according to the CDC. This number is up 8.6% from recent weeks. There were 7,279 reported cases of RSV, up 1,400 from the previous week, and there was a 4% increase in positive flu cases.
Over 50% of adults who were previously vaccinated and don’t have the new Covid vaccine cite lack of concern about Covid as the reason they haven’t gotten the updated vaccine, according to KFF data. Over 35% say they’ve been too busy and 32% say they’re waiting to get vaccinated at a later date. Since the Covid public health emergency was lifted in May, safety precautions have become lenient. Only 12% of the population is masking, and this Thanksgiving travel season is predicted to be the busiest in 18 years. People “aren’t scared of this virus anymore,” Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Vox. This year’s flu vaccine rates are on track with last year’s flu season, though slightly behind, according to CDC data. The flu vaccine has been around since the early 1900s, so people are likely used to getting them every year. On the other hand, Covid vaccines were first available in 2020—and were met with hesitation—and the most current vaccines were approved earlier this year. Although the first RSV vaccines and antibody shots for older adults, pregnant people and infants were approved this year, there have been several drawbacks. Due to the way they’re covered under Medicare, individuals may have to pay upwards of $300 out-of-pocket for the shots. There’s also a shortage of some infant antibody shots, causing doctors to prioritize high-risk infants at the request of the CDC. However, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration announced plans on Thursday to expedite 77,000 doses of the shot.
There has been an uptick in childhood vaccine exemptions for measles, polio, tetanus and other diseases that some experts believe is connected to skepticism of the new Covid vaccines. Forty states saw a rise in exemptions granted to school aged children, and 3% of kids entering kindergarten had one for the 2022-2023, which is the highest rate ever reported in the U.S. Idaho was the state with the highest reported exemption rate, where 12.1% of kindergarten students had been granted an exemption, followed by Oregon with 8.2% and Utah at 8.1%. The CDC say 90% of all exemptions were for nonmedical reasons, including religious and philosophical ones, though they didn’t specify further. Almost 30% of people surveyed think parents should be able to decide whether or not to vaccinate their school-age children, up from 16% who shared that view in 2019, according to a 2022 study by KFF. Public perception of the importance of childhood vaccines declined in 52 out of 55 countries studied during the Covid pandemic, UNICEF reports.
Childhood Vaccine Exemptions Reach Highest Level Ever — Upping Risk For Outbreaks Of Polio, Measles And More (Forbes)
RSV Vaccines Aren’t Covered By Medicare For These Vulnerable Groups (Forbes)
Infant RSV Antibody Shortage: Here Are The CDC Recommended Alternatives (Forbes)
Thanksgiving Travel: Holiday Weekend Will Be The Busiest For Flying In 18 Years, AAA Predicts (Forbes)
Covid’s No Longer A Public Health Emergency: Here’s How That May Affect You (Forbes)