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Fall vaccine season is coming, here’s what you need to know

With a rise in COVID-19 cases driven by a new variant of the virus, health officials are urging people to get up to date on their vaccines. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
This fall offers a wide array of vaccine options for people in Maryland. The newest COVID booster is expected to come out in mid-September.

This fall offers a wide array of vaccine options for people in Maryland. Gone are the days of purely getting the flu shot as autumn nears, now residents need to consider COVID, RSV and flu shots.

It might be tricky to figure out which to get and when to get them.

Dr. Leana Wen, the former Baltimore health commissioner and professor of public health at George Washington University, says it all depends on your age, health and previous vaccination history.

The newest COVID booster is expected to come out in mid-September.

“The new booster has the benefit of more closely targeting the existing strains,” Wen said on WYPR’s Midday show. “You can think about that, in a sense, like the flu vaccine. We get the flu vaccine every year because there are new strains that develop, and this particular booster for COVID is going to more closely match the circulating strains.”

Wen says it’s best for people to wait until the new booster is out in the coming weeks to ensure they have protection against the latest strains.

Moderna and Pfizer, two of the pharmaceutical companies providing COVID boosters, say the shot is effective against the BA.2.86 variant, an omicron version of the disease that has concerned health officials because of its many mutations.

“Our updated COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be an important tool for protection as we head into the fall vaccination season," said Dr. Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna in a Sept. 6 press release. "Moderna will continue to rapidly assess global public health threats and is committed to leveraging our mRNA platform against COVID-19."

Once the Food and Drug Administration greenlights the booster, it will be available in most pharmacies and health clinics.

This year is the first year that residents can get the RSV vaccine. Also known as the common cold, the illness causes 160,000 deaths globally a year.

Wen said the vaccine is now widely available. She and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people over 65, young children and people who are immunocompromised get the shot.

Finally, don’t think you’re getting off easy without the flu shot. Just like in years past, the vaccine for this year’s variant of the flu is already available in pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

The flu is responsible for about 36,000 deaths in the United States a year.

“I would not recommend people getting the flu shot until late September or early October,” Wen said. “That's because the flu shot also has a fairly limited window of optimal protection and you want it to last this entire season.”

Wen says she would not recommend people get all of their shots at once unless it’s absolutely necessary.

While it’s not dangerous to get all three, it’s possible that there will be an elevated immune response.

People are more likely to get aches, chills, fatigue and fevers when they double or triple up their vaccinations, Wen said.

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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