It’s beginning to look a lot like fall in Colorado. With the changing of leaves and cooler temperatures comes an increase in viral illnesses. Last year’s tripledemic of COVID-19, flu, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) brought hospitals to capacity and challenged healthcare system resources statewide. From October 2022 to May 2023, there were 3,076 flu hospitalizations and 8,231 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). During the same period, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) RSV-NET showed 50 RSV hospitalizations per 100,000 individuals in the state. This breaks down to 2,906 RSV hospitalizations for Colorado’s 5.812 million population. This year though, the game has changed. We have more tools and knowledge than ever to protect ourselves, those we love, and everyone else in our communities!
Today’s Team Vaccine Blog post is part one of a three-part series. It breaks down what you need to know about the updated COVID-19 vaccines. We’ll also shed light on the importance of staying vaccinated. In addition, we’ll correct some of the misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines. Stay tuned! In the coming weeks, we’ll publish parts two and three and dive into the latest on flu vaccination and new vaccines and treatments for RSV.
Updated COVID-19 vaccines: Why do we need them? Who should get them?
As viruses circulate, they mutate to form new variants. Over the last three years, the virus that causes COVID-19 has changed a lot. The old vaccines match old variants. Now we have updated vaccines for better protection against the newest variants. This is much like the flu vaccine we get each year. You can even get both an updated COVID-19 vaccine and your flu vaccine at the same time. Updated COVID-19 vaccines are for everyone six months of age and up.
When should I get the updated vaccine?
The short answer is ASAP. Don’t wait and put yourself at risk! Cases of COVID-19 are up in Colorado and across the U.S., and protection for most people has likely waned by now. Of course, this depends on the timing of your most recent vaccine and whether you’ve had a recent infection. But remember, the old vaccines don’t offer the same level of protection. The updated vaccines offer the best defense against COVID-19.
There is additional guidance for specific populations who may need increased protection. If you are immunocompromised, you can get another vaccine two months after receiving the updated vaccine. If you’re over age 65, you can get an additional dose after four months.
Will I have to pay for the updated vaccine?
You should not have to pay for the updated COVID-19 vaccine. While COVID-19 vaccines are no longer paid for by the federal government, insurance will cover their full cost. The federal Bridge Access and Vaccines for Children programs will provide them at no cost for underinsured and uninsured individuals.
Don’t let kids go unprotected!
COVID-19 infection in kids is sometimes downplayed. The truth is COVID-19 infection can be severe and have lasting implications on kids’ health. It’s not like the common cold! Over half of kids hospitalized for COVID-19 do not have a preexisting condition that would put them at greater risk for severe illness. According to the latest Vaccine-Preventable Diseases Report from Children’s Hospital Colorado from 2020 to 2021, COVID-19 was a leading cause of death in children. There’s also the risk of post-COVID multisystem inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C. While this is rare, MIS-C is serious and can even be deadly. It can occur between two and six weeks after a child is infected with COVID-19. MIS-C can cause fever, rashes, red eyes, diarrhea, and vomiting. Unvaccinated kids can needlessly spread viruses in schools and other places where they have contact with others. It’s essential to keep students, faculty, and staff protected to avoid time away from school due to illness, and to ultimately avoid outbreaks that could warrant quarantines.
It’s also worth mentioning that infants, who are not eligible for vaccination have the highest rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations after adults over age 75. They need the rest of us to be vaccinated to protect them!
COVID-19 vaccines and misinformation – let’s look at some facts.
While we continue to learn about COVID-19, there is a lot we do know about COVID-19 vaccines. There has been concern that vaccines were developed quickly and rushed to the market, and that there were shortcuts in testing for safety. The truth is that the technology used to create them has been in development for years. COVID-19 vaccines, including the updated vaccines and all other vaccines, are carefully tested and are continuously monitored for safety.
Some of the most common pieces of misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines include myths about myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. Contrary to some information shared online, myocarditis is not a reason to not get vaccinated against COVID-19. The risk of myocarditis is much greater from COVID-19 infection than from vaccination. According to the American Heart Association, “people infected with COVID-19 before receiving a vaccine were 11 times more at risk for developing myocarditis within 28 days of testing positive for the virus. But that risk was cut in half if a person was infected after receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.” Rare instances of myocarditis have occurred in teens and young adults following COVID-19 vaccination. However, these cases are mild and symptoms resolve within a few days.
Give yourself, those you love, and your whole community the best protection from COVID-19 during this respiratory virus season.
In 2023, we have tools to protect ourselves and others that we’ve never had before. Each day, we are learning more about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the long-term effects it has on us, and treatments to fight it. With this knowledge we have the responsibility to protect ourselves, those we love, and everyone else in our community. This means staying vaccinated. Schedule your updated COVID-19 vaccine today!
Immunize Colorado was formed in 1991 in response to alarmingly low vaccination rates across the state. At the time, only about 50% of Colorado’s children were adequately vaccinated. A group of physicians and other concerned individuals came together to strategize how to prevent protect Coloradans from vaccine-preventable diseases and increase vaccine uptake. Much work remains. You can donate or discover other ways to get involved in supporting our commitment to healthy Colorado communities today!