As the respiratory season approaches, Sanford Health, Essentia Health and Fargo Cass Public Health (FCPH) are uniting to emphasize the critical importance of vaccinating against respiratory illnesses such as influenza (flu), RSV and COVID-19.
Recent years have presented unprecedented challenges to our community, and we have witnessed the profound impact respiratory illnesses can have on individuals, families and our health care systems. In anticipation of the approaching season, we urge you to prioritize your health and the well-being of those around you by getting vaccinated.
Flu, COVID-19 and RSV can lead to severe complications and, in some cases, hospitalization or even death, particularly among vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.
“Respiratory illnesses pose a significant threat to our community,” said Dr. Steven Briggs, Sanford Health chief medical officer. “It is paramount that we take a proactive approach to protect ourselves and our communities. Prevention and responsible behaviors are our strongest allies in the fight against these diseases.”
Vaccinations are one of the most effective tools in preventing the spread of respiratory illnesses, reducing severe cases and saving lives. Preliminary estimates show that last season, people who were vaccinated against the flu were about 40-70% less likely to be hospitalized due to flu illness or related complications. Last year, only 49% of children aged 6 months to 4 years old in North Dakota received a dose of the flu vaccine, leaving a substantial portion of the young population vulnerable to the flu.
“Getting vaccinated against respiratory illnesses is not just an individual choice; it’s a collective responsibility to prevent community spread and reduce the burden on our health care systems,” said Dr. Richard Vetter, Essentia Health West Market chief medical officer. “The convergence of these respiratory illnesses during the fall and winter months could place immense pressure on our hospitals if we don’t act now.”
A new, updated monovalent COVID-19 vaccine will be available this fall. Despite the emergence of new virus strains, this vaccine is anticipated to provide cross-protection, enhancing our defense against COVID-19 and its variants.
For the first time, there are now immunizations available to protect against RSV for those over the age of 60 and infants.
Individuals over the age of 60 with certain medical conditions, and those living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, may receive a single dose of the newly approved RSV immunization, and are encouraged to speak with their health care provider about whether immunization is right for them.
RSV immunization is recommended for all infants, under the age of 8 months, born before or during the RSV season, and for children 18-months and younger who are at increased risk, including severely immunocompromised children, of severe RSV and are entering their second RSV season. The RSV immunization for infants is a preventative antibody that provides short-term protection against RSV and hospitalization for about one RSV season. This immunization has shown remarkable results, reducing the risk of hospitalizations and health care visits for RSV in infants by approximately 80%.
“Along with Sanford Health and Essentia Health, we are committed to protecting our community,” said Dr. Tracie Newman, FCPH Health Officer. “Vaccination is key in our defense against respiratory illnesses, and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their neighbors.”
Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get an annual flu vaccine. Several Sanford and Essentia clinics will host individual flu vaccine events this fall. Learn more and find an event near you at sanfordhealth.org or essentiahealth.org. For flu shot availability through Fargo Cass Public Health, please call 701.241.1383.
Whether it’s the flu vaccine, COVID-19 booster shots or other recommended vaccines, each one plays a vital role in safeguarding our community’s health. You are encouraged to reach out to your health care provider for guidance on vaccination options and schedules.