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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The gift of health this holiday season

Sponsored content provided by Kaiser Permanente

November and December are months focused on gratitude and giving, often celebrated by many with fun, festive gatherings with friends and family. Give the gift of health to yourself, and your loved ones, this winter by taking precautionary steps to prevent illness.

As temperatures drop, respiratory viruses, like the flu, COVID-19, and RSV, increase. These viruses can lead to severe illness – particularly for young children and older adults. During the winter months, it is important to continue to practice frequent hand washing, cover coughs and sneezes, avoid contact with sick individuals, and stay home when you are sick.

In addition to these precautionary measures, there are further actions that can be taken to reduce the spread of germs – like getting the flu, COVID-19, and RSV vaccinations. Getting vaccinated is crucial for individual and community health, as it not only protects you from serious illness but also plays a vital role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases within the broader population.

Building immunity and taking precautions is essential not only for your own protection but also for safeguarding older and younger generations. Here’s what you need to know about these highly contagious viruses, and how you can reduce your risk of getting sick this winter and to help give the gift of health to your friends, family, and the community. If you have questions, consult with your healthcare provider to determine your specific vaccination needs.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Vaccine:

In the United States, RSV is a common virus that can impact all individuals with a fever, severe cough, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. However, these symptoms can be particularly dangerous for children ages five and under and adults over the age of 60. Furthermore, due to reduced RSV infections during the pandemic, many children lack natural immunity. Fortunately, this fall, we have several vaccinations to help us combat the virus:

  • For adults aged 60 and older, especially those with chronic medical conditions, two new RSV vaccines have been developed. Clinical trials show 83% and 89% effectiveness at preventing lower respiratory symptoms in the first RSV season after vaccination.
  • The new infant antibody, Nirsevimab (also known as Beyfortus), is generally recommended by the CDC for all infants under eight months, as well as for babies born during the RSV season and older babies at higher risk of severe illness. Due to supply limitations for the 2023-2024 season, the CDC is currently modifying these recommendations, recommending instead that the antibody go to infants at increased risk of severe RSV. Talk to your provider about your child’s RSV risk.

    Additionally, if you will be in close proximity to a newborn baby during the holiday season, it is advisable to consider obtaining a Tdap vaccine. This vaccine offers protection to infants against Bordetella pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory infection.

    COVID-19 Booster & Vaccine

    Staying up to date on COVID vaccination is crucial for maintaining your family’s health. This fall, the COVID vaccines have been updated to target the Omicron variant XBB.1.5 and will continue to evolve to address new variants.

    • The updated COVID vaccines are now available, with vaccination or boosters recommended for everyone aged six years and older. Children aged six months to five years may require multiple doses.
    • Even if you’ve had COVID recently, it’s unclear how long natural immunity lasts, so getting a booster is advised. If you have COVID symptoms, it’s recommended to test with either a home test, which may need to be repeated over several days, or a PCR test.
    • Influenza Vaccine

      It’s not too late to get a flu shot this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for anyone aged 6 months and older. The flu can cause serious illness, hospitalization, and even death. The flu vaccine can reduce this risk.

      Each year, the flu vaccine is updated to match the current virus strain, reducing the risk of flu by 40% to 60%, according to recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

      Plan ahead and you may be able to get both your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccination or booster at the same time. Like many vaccines, you might experience some side effects such as soreness from the shot, a headache, fever, nausea, and muscle aches. These are generally very mild and go away in a few days.

      Everyday Healthy Actions

      In addition to staying updated on your vaccines, don’t forget that there are other ways you can stay healthy and prevent illness – do your part this winter to spread the gift of health.  

      • Frequently wash your hands using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
      • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve and wash your hands after.
      • Clean, sanitize and disinfect surfaces.
      • Stay home when sick and take a COVID-19 test if showing symptoms or if you were around someone who tested positive.
      • As a reminder, reach out to your healthcare provider to evaluate your specific vaccination needs. Let’s collectively prioritize our well-being this winter. The gift of health is priceless, and by each doing our part, we can ensure the wellness of not only ourselves but our friends, family members, and the community.