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What to know as fall vaccinations against COVID, flu and RSV get underway
Sep 28

AP Medical Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) __ Updated COVID-19 vaccines may be getting a little easier for adults to find but they're still frustratingly scarce for young children. Health officials said Thursday the kid shots have started shipping __ and reminded most everyone to get a fall flu shot too.

About 2 million Americans have gotten the new COVID-19 shot in the two weeks since its approval despite early barriers from insurance companies and other glitches, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

For the first time, the U.S. has vaccines to fight a trio of viruses that cause fall and winter misery. But health officials worry that shot fatigue and hassles in getting them will leave too many people needlessly unprotected.

"We need to use them," Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday. "Right now is the right time."

A flu vaccination and that updated COVID-19 shot are urged for just about everyone, starting with babies as young as 6 months.

Also this year, a vaccine against another scary virus called RSV is recommended for people 60 and older and for certain pregnant women. And for babies, a vaccinelike medicine to guard against that respiratory syncytial virus is expected to arrive next month.

"These vaccines may not be perfect in being able to prevent absolutely every infection with these illnesses, but they turn a wild infection into a milder one, " said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Some things to know:

This year's vaccine is updated to protect against newer versions of the
constantly evolving coronavirus. Already there's been a late summer jump in
infections, hospitalizations and deaths. And so far the new vaccine recipe
appears to be a good match to the variants currently circulating.

Protection against COVID-19, whether from vaccination or from an earlier infection, wanes over time __ and most Americans haven't had a vaccine dose in about a year. Everyone 5 and older will need just one shot this fall even if they've never had a prior vaccination, while younger children may need additional doses depending on their vaccination and infection history.

The rollout`s start has been messy. This time the government isn`t buying and
distributing shots for free. Now drugstores, doctors` offices and other
providers had to place their own orders, and sometimes canceled appointments if
supplies didn`t arrive in time. Some people had to wait for their insurance
companies to update the billing codes needed to cover them or risk paying out of

Manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna have shipped millions of doses, and say there's plenty of supply __ and in recent days, more appointments have started opening, at least for people 12 and older. In a Wednesday meeting, insurance companies told HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra they`ve largely resolved the paperwork issues blocking some patients` vaccinations.

The shots are supposed to be provided free in-network to the insured. For the uninsured or underinsured, CDC has opened what it`s calling a "bridge" program to provide free shots at certain sites.

WHY CAN'T PARENTS FIND COVID-19 SHOTS FOR YOUNGER KIDS? Adult doses got shipped first, CDC's Cohen said. Doses for the under-12 set have begun shipping, and "the supply is filling out," she said.

Drugstore chain CVS said its doses for ages 5 and older began arriving last week, although supplies vary by location, while its MinuteClinic locations anticipate opening appointments for tots as young as 18 months in the coming days.

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023

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