The Pennsylvania Department of Health, in conjunction with local healthcare providers, urges Pennsylvanians to keep current with their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations as the state enters the respiratory disease season.
Both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines have been updated to combat the latest virus variants present in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S., health officials say.
Health officials advise residents six months and older to receive both the flu and COVID-19 shots.
Respiratory viruses exhibit symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, headaches, body aches, chills, and fatigue. High-risk individuals, due to age or health conditions, should consult healthcare professionals early for potential antiviral treatments. These medications, available for flu, COVID-19, and RSV, can mitigate symptoms, decrease infection duration, and diminish severe health repercussions when taken promptly, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
A vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is now available for individuals 60 and over and those in their third trimester of pregnancy. An RSV shot is also on offer for infants experiencing their first winter. Those interested in the RSV vaccine should discuss eligibility with their healthcare provider.
“Vaccinations are especially important for high-risk groups including people 65 and older, people with certain medical conditions, and those at a higher risk of developing complications from respiratory illness,” according to a statement from state health officials.
“Getting vaccinated remains the most effective way to protect yourself against respiratory viruses circulating this fall and winter. It’s also safe to receive both the flu and COVID-19 vaccinations at the same time, as I did today,” said Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen. “Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations are crucial because they slow the spread of disease, prevent severe illness, and lower the likelihood of hospitalizations, especially among children, older adults, and people who have weakened immune systems.”
The majority of insurance plans cover flu, COVID-19, and RSV shots.
For the underinsured or uninsured, the COVID-19 vaccine is accessible at local State Health Centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and the CDC Bridge Access Program. Eligible children can receive COVID-19, flu, and other standard childhood shots for free through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program.
Concerns about insurance or billing issues, such as unexpected vaccine charges, can be addressed to Pennsylvania Insurance Department at insurance.pa.gov or 1-877-881-6388.
For further details or to locate a vaccination site, visit vaccines.gov.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently debuted a respiratory virus dashboard with weekly updates on statewide respiratory disease impacts.