Staying Healthy for the Holidays: Helping to Protecting Yourself, Your Loved Ones, and Your Holiday Plans
The final weeks of 2023 are quickly approaching – and for many of us, this means a busy holiday season filled with long-distance travel, festive celebrations, and more time spent with loved ones.
While we gear up for the holiday excitement, it’s important to remember that while the pandemic may be over, respiratory virus season is currently in full swing. In fact, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have predicted 2023 will be similar to last year in terms of the total number of hospitalizations from COVID-19, RSV and flu. For the past few holiday seasons, we have all experienced the ability of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses to dampen our plans – from last-minute cancellations, to shifting to virtual celebrations, to spending the holidays sick in bed. The good news is we are well equipped with the tools and knowledge needed to combat COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses to help limit their disruption to this year’s holiday season.
Vaccination is a Key Way to Help Protect Yourself and Your Vulnerable Loved Ones
Staying up to date on your vaccines is an important step to keeping yourself and your loved ones healthy and help ensure everyone can enjoy the holidays to the fullest. While anyone can face serious outcomes from these viruses, our most vulnerable loved ones – older adults over 60 years of age or those with certain chronic health conditions – are more likely to experience severe illness compared to healthy adults. According to the CDC, adults age 65 and older made up 63% of all COVID-19 associated hospitalizations between January and August 2023, and yet fewer than a quarter had received an updated booster.
A recent survey evaluating perceptions on COVID-19 vaccination revealed that among adults who had not yet opted to get vaccinated, one of the largest barriers to vaccination was simply the belief they didn’t need any additional shots. Yet, it’s clear that people want to keep their families safe from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses - When adults responsible for healthcare decisions were asked if they would recommend a COVID-19 shot for a child or loved one, around half agreed, especially when it came to parents, grandparents or children under 18 years of age. We know that COVID-19 vaccine protection wanes over time, and especially as new variants emerge, staying up to date with your vaccine doses can help prevent the spread of infection that could turn holiday plans upside down.
When Should You Get Vaccinated Ahead of the Holidays?
COVID-19 and flu vaccines are widely available at convenient pharmacy and clinic locations across the country, and are recommended by Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for everyone ages 6 months and older in the U.S. If you still haven’t been vaccinated, you should make an appointment at least two weeks before embarking on holiday travel or attending large gatherings, to ensure the body has enough time to build immunity. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine alongside an existing flu vaccine appointment can also help save time and add an additional layer of protection against another common seasonal threat.
There are also many of us who were recently infected with COVID-19 during the surge in cases at the start of the Fall – in fact, from July 31ˢᵗ to September 28ᵗʰ 2023, there were over 2 million COVID-19 cases reported globally. Data shows that unvaccinated individuals are shown to be twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus. According to the CDC, people may consider delaying your vaccine for 3 months after recovery. This means that if you had a COVID-19 infection this summer or fall, now is the time to receive your updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against recent strains.
In advance of holiday travel and large family gatherings, help protect yourself, your loved ones and your holiday plans by scheduling your COVID-19 vaccine as I have already done at https://www.vaccines.gov/.