Vaccines deployed against triple viral threat from COVID-19, RSV, flu

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This story appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Read more here.

Newly formulated COVID-19 vaccines won final approval from federal regulators Tuesday, giving Americans a triple shot of vaccines to protect against respiratory viruses this fall.

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on recommendations from an independent vaccine committee and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the updated mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, for Americans ages 6 months and older.

Doses of the newly updated shots should arrive in Michigan pharmacies and doctors’ offices in the coming days. The vaccines target a single strain of the virus, the XBB.1.5 lineage of the omicron variant. The new shots are expected to protect most people from serious illness, hospitalization and death from several strains now circulating.

“We expect the updated COVID-19 vaccine to be available through the Vaccines for Children and Bridge program starting early next week,” said Chelsea Wuth, a spokesperson for the state health department. “Private providers may be able to receive some vaccine earlier than the public programs.”

The approval comes as spread of coronavirus begins to swell once again in Michigan and health leaders expect to see influenza and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases rise with cooling temperatures as people return to indoor spaces in the months ahead.

It’s yet again sparking concerns of a so-called “tripledemic,” which could overwhelm hospitals this fall and winter.

“We have said that every year,” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, said Dr. Matthew Sims, director of infectious diseases research at Corewell Health, adding that it’s hard to predict what will happen in the months ahead.

Where does Michigan stand now with COVID-19 spread?

It’s clear already that coronavirus cases are climbing in Michigan. The virus has been detected at higher levels in wastewater. And although the numbers are still quite low compared with previous pandemic peaks, in one month’s time — from Aug. 11 to Sept. 11 — the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has more than doubled, from 175 to 396, according to state health department data.

Sims said he’s seen more cases among patients at Corewell Health East, which includes all eight southeastern Michigan hospitals that were in the former Beaumont Health system. In a single week, between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, the percentage of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 rose 30% at the hospitals, Sims said. And the test positivity rate climbed to 12.4% as of Sept. 7, which is a 50% increase from two weeks earlier.

Dr. Matthew Sims, director of infectious diseases research at Beaumont Health.
Now is the time, Sims said, to get the COVID-19 booster, along with the flu shot. For anyone who is pregnant or age 60 or older, he also recommends the new RSV vaccine.

“Get the vaccines,” Sims said. “Vaccines are probably among of the greatest medical discoveries of all time. … People forget what it was like before the days of vaccines; they have forgotten what serious childhood illness was like.”

Here’s what you need to know about all the respiratory vaccines available this fall, who should get them and when.

Who is eligible for the new COVID-19 booster?

The CDC recommends all Americans ages 6 months and older get the new coronavirus vaccine.


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You’ve got questions. That’s a good thing.

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