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Thursday, September 14, 2023

RSV Vaccines for People Over 60 Are Finally Here. Here’s Why You Should Get One.

Posted By: Advancing Care

Each year, the United States sees about 60,000-120,000 hospitalizations and 6,000-10,000 deaths among adults aged 65 and older due to the highly contagious respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first RSV vaccine designed for individuals aged 60 and older.

"Historically, RSV hasn't garnered as much attention as the flu or COVID-19," says Gerald Karetnick, DO, a family medicine physician with WMCHealth's Bon Secours Medical Group. "However, following a substantial increase in RSV cases last year, and with another surge anticipated for this year, that’s changing. Now, we finally have a way to prevent RSV and its potentially life-threatening complications for those at risk.”

As we look ahead to another winter season, it's important for individuals over 60 to shield themselves against this seasonal ailment by getting vaccinated.

Gerald Karetnick, DO

RSV and Its Impact on Older Adults

RSV is a highly contagious virus that causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract in individuals of all age groups. RSV is seasonal, typically starting during the fall and peaking in the winter. It can cause symptoms ranging from mild cold-like symptoms to more severe respiratory illness, particularly in young children, older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.

In people over 60, RSV is a common cause of lower respiratory tract disease (LRTD), which affects the lungs and can cause life-threatening complications like pneumonia and bronchiolitis. “Older adults, especially those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease or weakened immune systems, face a heightened risk of severe illness due to RSV,” says Dr. Karetnick. “That’s why it’s important to take precautions in any way you can.”

Protect Your Health from RSV this Winter

RSV is spread by respiratory droplets, so it’s easy to get from a cough or sneeze. “RSV is highly transmissible," notes Dr. Karetnick. "It’s commonly passed around during holiday gatherings when family members get together indoors. It’s also very common for older adults to contract RSV from their grandchildren, as it’s a common virus among children under the age of five."

Given RVS’s high transmissibility and high rates of complications and hospitalizations, it’s important to be proactive, protect your health and get vaccinated this fall. "Starting this month, most pharmacies will begin offering the new RSV vaccine for older adults," explains Dr. Karetnick. "So, before heading in to get your flu shot, contact your pharmacy to see if they have the RSV vaccine and schedule an appointment for that as well.”

If you’re over 60, ask your doctor about your risk for RSV. "Individuals with weakened immune systems or comorbidities should exercise extra caution when it comes to RSV. Getting vaccinated and wearing a mask are two ways to limit your exposure and protect yourself,” advises Dr. Karetnick.

To learn more, contact your healthcare provider or visit us.