It’s that time of year again: the leaves are changing, temperatures are cooling, the holidays are right around the corner and cold and flu season is upon us. We’ve come a long way since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and that time can sometimes seem like a distant memory. The lessons we learned, though, shouldn’t be forgotten.
With so many things to look forward to in the coming months, it’s important to remember the steps we can all take to stay safe and healthy. One of the most important steps is getting vaccinated for viruses that peak in the fall and winter.
Vaccinate to Protect Against Viruses
“We are committed to making sure all our members at Independence Blue Cross have access to and coverage for the care they need, when they need it, and in a setting that best suits their needs. This includes vaccines for COVID-19, the flu, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which are now available at doctor’s offices, health clinics, and pharmacies in the region,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, Executive Vice President, Facilitated Health Networks at Independence.
Vaccines can help to protect you and your loved ones against serious illness, hospitalization, and even death. They increase the likelihood that your body can fight off viruses, which is particularly important during the fall and winter months when we stay inside more often. You’re at an even greater health risk if you experience a combination of these viruses. That’s why vaccinations are so important in maintaining good health.
The annual flu shot is available now, as are updated COVID-19 vaccines that more closely target current variants of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flu and COVID-19 vaccines for anyone 6 months of age or older. RSV vaccines are also available to infants, toddlers, adults over the age of 60, and pregnant individuals at 32 through 36 weeks gestational age. These groups are more likely to develop severe RSV.
“We encourage our members and the community to talk with their doctors about the vaccines that are right for them and their loved ones, as well as when to get them,” said Dr. Snyder.
The COVID-19 and flu vaccines are covered under preventive care for Independence members at no cost when obtained from an in-network doctor’s office or pharmacy. The RSV vaccine and immunization are also covered as a preventive service at no cost to members in CDC-recommended groups when obtained from an in-network doctor or pharmacy. Those groups include:
- Adults 60 years of age and older, as advised by their doctor.
- Infants younger than 8 months old who are born during or entering their first RSV season (administered in a doctor’s office only).
- Infants and toddlers 8-19 months old who are at an increased risk for severe RSV and entering their second RSV season (administered in a doctor’s office only).
- Pregnant individuals at 32 through 36 weeks gestational age.
Symptoms to Look For
Our goal is for members to have the knowledge they need to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their loved ones. Knowing the symptoms of COVID-19, the flu and RSV can help you stay safe.
COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, where flu is caused by influenza viruses that can change year-to-year. RSV is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs. Each of these viruses are contagious respiratory illnesses that can have similar or overlapping symptoms, but there are differences.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 and flu can present with similar symptoms, making it hard to tell one from the other. Symptoms can include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Change in or loss of taste or smell, although this is more frequent with COVID-19
- Coughing and sneezing
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Loss of or decrease in appetite
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
Steps to Safety
While vaccinations are a primary resource to protect yourself from illness, small steps can be taken to ward off and reduce the spread of viruses. These include:
- Avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick
- Staying home if you have an illness or are experiencing symptoms
- Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds
- Avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose
- Cleaning surfaces at home, work and school regularly
- Masking if you have a cough
- Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated
Following these steps and getting vaccinated will help you and your loved ones stay safe. It will also help limit the spread of viruses across the community.