University of Nebraska Medical Center

Federal Officials Hatch a Three-Pronged Defense Against Another ‘Tripledemic’

New York Times This fall, Americans will be urged to get shots against the flu, Covid and, if they’re older, R.S.V.

To prevent a repeat of last winter’s “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses, Americans will be encouraged to roll up their sleeves not just for flu shots but for two other vaccines, one of them entirely new.

Federal health officials have already asked manufacturers to produce reformulated Covid vaccines to be distributed later this year. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took an additional step, endorsing two new vaccines against respiratory syncytial virus for older Americans.

The three shots — flu, Covid and R.S.V. — may help to reduce hospitalizations and deaths later this year. But there are uncertainties about how the vaccines are best administered, who is most likely to benefit, and what the risks may be.

For older and immunocompromised Americans, all three vaccines are a “godsend,” said Dr. Ofer Levy, director of the precision vaccines program at Boston Children’s Hospital and an adviser to the Food and Drug Administration.

“The number of elders who die of viral infection every winter in our intensive care units, and also sometimes in the summer, is large — it’s in the tens of thousands of individuals,” Dr. Levy said. “Each of these vaccines is a huge win.”

Yet it’s unclear how many Americans will opt for the shots. Some 71 percent of adults ages 65 and older got a flu shot this past winter, but only about 43 percent chose to get the Covid booster.

The misery of the past winter may help change minds. The flu may have led to as many as 58,000 deaths, peaking in December, according to the C.D.C. Covid claimed roughly 50,000 lives between November and March.

R.S.V. kills up to 10,000 people each year, most of them older. Infections this year peaked in November and resulted in about twice as many hospitalizations, including children, as in prepandemic years.

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