New York State Department of Health Urges New Yorkers to Protect Themselves From Respiratory Illness Ahead of the Holidays

Safe and Effective Vaccines Are Available to Protect Against Influenza, COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

CDC Issues Health Advisory Highlighting Urgent Need to Increase Immunization Coverage for Flu, COVID-19, and RSV

Find a Flu Vaccine Here and a COVID-19 Vaccine Here

RSV Information Available Here

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 14, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health wishes everyone a safe and healthy holiday season, with a reminder that vaccines are available to protect against flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), ahead of your holiday gatherings and travel.

"The holidays are here and thankfully we are able to gather together and celebrate. It is my hope that no one would miss out on visiting with friends and loved ones because they are sick," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "For the first time in history, we have 3 safe, and effective vaccines available to protect against these 3 illnesses."

Today, the CDC issued a Health Alert Network Health Advisory to alert health care providers to low vaccination rates against flu, COVID-19, and RSV, highlighting the urgent need to increase immunization coverage and use of authorized and approved therapeutics. CDC warns that low vaccination rates coupled with ongoing increases in national and international respiratory disease activity could lead to more severe disease and increased health care capacity strain in the coming weeks.

On December 6, Commissioner McDonald declared that influenza is now prevalent in New York State. Early indications are that the flu vaccine for this year is likely to offer good protection against this year's circulating flu virus. The flu shot is available to those aged 6 months and older.

Those aged 65 years and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions, young children, and pregnant people are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu, which could require hospitalization and result in death. There have been two pediatric flu-associated deaths in the state this season; one in Erie County and one in New York City.

Members of the public can follow the latest New York State flu trends on the Department's Flu Tracker, which provides timely information about local, regional, and statewide influenza activity. For those who get the flu, antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, can be prescribed by health care providers and can reduce the length and severity of the illness.

For the first time this year, a vaccine is available for RSV for older adults and for people who are pregnant. It's important for New Yorkers who are over the age of 60 with medical conditions to get vaccinated right away and only one shot is needed. People who are pregnant should contact their obstetrician/gynecologist for more information.

In November 2023, the Department announced a statewide standing order allowing pharmacists in New York State to administer the RSV vaccination to individuals 60 and older and pregnant people without a separate prescription from their physician. Those who get RSV should contact a health care provider. Hydrating and over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers can help manage symptoms.

The updated 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine is formulated to target the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 and covers most of the current viral strains that are seen in New York and the U.S. The updated vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months or older who has not received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past two months to protect against potentially serious illness.

Individuals who have symptoms should test for COVID-19, and those who test positive should contact their health care provider about possible treatments, which have been shown effective at reducing the chances of serious outcomes. More information on treatment options can be found here.

It's safe, effective, and convenient to get all three vaccines at the same time in the same appointment.

Find a nearby flu vaccine here, and a nearby COVID-19 vaccine here.

Information about the flu is available here, including fact sheets and other downloadable materials.

The COVID-19 webpage has information on COVID-19 symptoms & prevention, testing, and treatment.

Information about RSV vaccination for older adults 60 years of age and over can be found here.

More information on RSV can be found here.

Information about vaccine efficacy and safety can be found here.