Older? That doesn’t automatically mean you should get the new RSV vaccine for adults this fall.
Although two respiratory syncytial virus vaccines have been licensed in the United States, for adults 60 and older, patients in that age group are being advised to consult with doctors or pharmacists to determine if they’re at high enough risk yet for what’s a one-time dose.
“You really do have to have this discussion to say when you get this one, and only one-time shot,” said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, medical director of preventive medicine for Intermountain Health, the region’s largest health care provider.
“If you are at high risk, if you’re are frail and over 75, this year is the right year to get it. But if you are really healthy and you probably won’t get hospitalized even if you get RSV, your doctor may tell you to wait for five years to get this one dose,” she said.
Otherwise, “you will give up your time when you may need it in the future because it’s only recommended once,” Sheffield said. Initial studies have shown no benefit to a booster dose, although that may change over time.
“It’s going to take some years for us to find that out,” she said.
While many think of RSV as an infant disease, the virus can also cause severe adverse outcomes in those who are older or medically vulnerable, with hospitalization rates for adults climbing much higher after age 75.
As a healthy 60-year-old, Sheffield said she won’t be getting the RSV vaccine herself this year. “But,” she said, “I might get it next year if something happens, that makes me feel like I’m at risk.”
Her patients can expect similar advice unless they’re 75 or older, and/or have at least one of the risk factors for severe illness from RSV that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says includes:
Neurologic or neuromuscular conditions
Moderate or severe immune compromise
Reside in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
The CDC also recommends that those 60 and older consult with a health care provider before rolling up their sleeves for an RSV vaccine, noting that differs from the routine “default decision” to vaccinate everyone in a specified age group or risk group.
A chart used by NBC News medical analyst Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonary and critical care physician in Washington state, states that while the RSV vaccine isn’t necessary for adults in good health who are under 60, shots are recommended now for anyone who’s older.
— Dr. Vin Gupta (@VinGuptaMD) September 4, 2023
“If you’re over 60 or if you’re medically higher risk, have the conversation with your medical provider,” Gupta told MSNBC recently. “But that’s who should get that RSV vaccine. I’d recommend getting that now if you’re in that target group.”
RSV shots are not yet available at pharmacies in Utah, Sheffield said, because the Utah Board of Pharmacy isn’t scheduled to meet until later this month to consider adding it to the list of approved vaccines that can be administered by pharmacists.
She said educational information about the RSV vaccine is going out this week to Intermountain Health providers, and only some local health departments are expected to offer the shots.
“You should feel that urgency about influenza and COVID. Yes, it’s time to go get those,” Sheffield, calling the annual flu shot and soon-to-be available updated dose of COVID-19 vaccine targeting a newer variant of the virus “an every person thing.”