When it comes to preventing a miserable, deadly disease — better late than never.
Health professionals are reminding people that there’s still time to get vaccinated before Thanksgiving, especially as the threat of a possible “tripledemic” of flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) looms.
“The bottom line is that the flu is not to be trifled [with],” Dr. Nirav Shah, principal deputy director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told USA Today. “It is not just a cold. It is a serious disease that can land you in the hospital and sadly, unfortunately, kill people, too.”
According to the CDC, there’s been a 3% increase in flu activity nationwide over the past week, especially in the south-central, southeastern and western regions of the US.
The numbers are indeed chilling: During the 2021-22 flu season, there were an estimated 9 million US flu cases, resulting in about 100,000 hospitalizations and an estimated 5,000 deaths. And 2021-22 was a relatively mild flu season.
By comparison, during the 2017-18 flu season, there were an estimated 41 million flu cases, with 710,000 hospitalizations and 52,000 deaths in the US.
Those most vulnerable to serious complications from the flu — such as hospitalization or death — include older people, pregnant women and infants.
In addition to the flu shot and a new COVID-19 booster, there are also two FDA-approved vaccines for RSV available for older adults — one of them is also approved for pregnant women to shield their newborns from RSV.
“We’ve started to see an uptick in some parts of the country … when it comes to RSV,” Shah said. “If you’re over the age of 60 or you have a young child, now is the right time to talk with your doctor, talk with your pharmacist, about getting the RSV vaccine or immunization.”
Whether enough people will get the shots in time to prevent widespread contagion remains to be seen.
“This is a huge concern,” Dr. Eric Cioè-Peña, vice president of global health for Northwell Health, told The Post. “Misinformation is causing people to defer or skip vaccinations that can prevent disease, disability and even death.”
Flu shots, COVID-19 boosters and RSV shots are widely available at most doctors’ offices and pharmacies such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, where you can usually get vaccinated without an appointment. Urgent care facilities such as CityMD and One Medical offer them as well.
The flu shot provides protection for about six months, and except for some minor side effects like soreness at the injection site, the vast majority of people won’t experience problems.
Health experts estimate that the flu vaccine is at full strength about two weeks after it’s delivered, but heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, even some protection is better than none.