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An Urgent Need for Vaccination Heading into the Holidays

December 15, 2023

The CDC is calling on providers to help address low vaccination rates against influenza, COVID-19, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) heading into the winter holidays.

On Thursday, the agency issued a health alert about low vaccination rates and the risks heading into the holiday gathering season.

“Low vaccination rates, coupled with ongoing increases in national and international respiratory disease activity caused by multiple pathogens, including influenza viruses, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and RSV, could lead to more severe disease and increased health care capacity strain in the coming weeks,” the agency noted.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The issue:  During the past month, hospitalizations among all age groups increased by 200 percent for influenza, 51 percent for COVID-19, and 60 percent for RSV.
    • Vaccination for these viruses can help reduce the risk for severe disease and protect health system capacity, but overall uptake remains low.
  • Concerning numbers:  Through mid-November, there were 7.4 million fewer adult influenza vaccine doses administered in pharmacies and physician offices.
    • Just 17.2 percent of adults and 36 precent of older adults have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Through December 2, about 16 percent of U.S. adults aged over 60 reported receiving an RSV vaccine.
  • Reasons:  The CDC cited lack of provider recommendations; concerns or issues about unknown or serious side effects; and lack of time or forgetting to get vaccinated as primary reasons for lower-than-desired vaccination rates.
  • Next steps:  Providers use all available tools to increase immunizations against influenza, COVID-19, and RSV. Talking points to address patient concerns is available online.
    • Providers also should encourage testing, covering coughs/sneezes, staying home when sick, improving ventilation at home or work, and washing hands.
  • The bottom line:  “Immunizations are especially important for people at increased risk for severe disease, including infants, older adults, pregnant people, and people with certain underlying medical conditions,” the health alert notes.

Additional information from the CDC is available online.