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Not too Late to Vaccinate: Health Officials Encourage Vaccination as Respiratory Illnesses Continue to Spread

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – With respiratory illnesses continuing to spread, the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services (DHSS) is encouraging individuals to get vaccinated to protect themselves and loved ones.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced its recommendation for individuals aged 65 and up to receive an additional COVID-19 dose. The recommendation acknowledges the increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19 in older adults, along with the currently available data on vaccine effectiveness. Those who are immunocompromised were already eligible for an additional dose. Adults 65 years and older are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with more than half of the nation’s COVID-19 hospitalizations during October to December 2023 occurring in this age group.

While the seasonal flu activity has not been as high as in previous seasons, Missouri is currently experiencing its highest level of activity thus far for the 2023-2024 flu season, which runs from October to May. Vaccination can still provide benefit by helping to protect against severe illness.

Vaccination can still provide benefit this season by helping to protect against severe illnesses. Everyone 6 months and older is eligible to get a flu vaccine. It takes two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the viruses.

An RSV vaccine is recommended for adults 60 and older to protect from severe RSV illness. It is given as a single dose and can be prescribed by a health care provider. Adults 60 or older should talk to their health care provider to determine if the RSV vaccine is right for them. Options are also available for young children and pregnant women. Families should discuss available options with their health care provider.

In addition to prevention, everyday preventive actions can also reduce the likelihood of spreading illness:

  • Stay home when sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Avoid close contact with others such as kissing, shaking hands, or sharing cups and eating utensils.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices. 

To find COVID-19 or flu vaccines near you, visit Vaccines.gov.

Home Test to Treat, a new nationwide program, provides access to free testing, telehealth visits, and treatment for COVID-19 and flu. Free telehealth visits and treatment are available for anyone who tests positive for either condition, regardless of insurance status.  Anyone who is uninsured or enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, VA Healthcare or Indian Health Services (IHS) can also receive free at-home COVID-19 and/or flu tests, even if they are not currently positive. Call 1-800-682-2829 or visit www.test2treat.org to learn how to enroll.

Most local public health agencies throughout the state of Missouri offer comprehensive health services and vaccinations at affordable rates. To find a local public health agency near you and schedule an appointment, visit the Local Public Health Agency Directory.

There are also various programs for those without health insurance to receive vaccinations. The CDC’s Bridge Access Program provides COVID-19 vaccinations at no cost to adults. The Vaccines for Children Program, funded by the CDC, provides free vaccines to children who qualify and is designed to help protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases.

News Releases | Health & Senior Services (mo.gov)

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