Health Benefits

Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Prevent Respiratory Viruses This Season

Updated vaccines are available to prevent Influenza, COVID-19, and even RSV this season.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expect this year to be similar to last year in terms of the total number of hospitalizations from COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — the triple threat viruses.

If you haven’t already gotten your vaccines, now is the time. Below are more details.

What’s New This Year?

Flu – The flu vaccines have been updated to account for the common strains of the Influenza viruses circulating. Those age 65 and older should ask for the recommended extra strength flu vaccine to ensure a stronger immune response.

COVID-19 – For COVID-19, updated Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are available. There is also an updated vaccine from Novavax, which is not mRNA based, but is protein based like the flu vaccine. These updated vaccines better protect against the coronavirus variants that you are most likely to be exposed to now and in the future.

RSV – This is the first year that a vaccine is widely available for RSV. The RSV vaccine can prevent lower respiratory tract disease that is caused by RSV. While most people recover in a week or two, RSV can be particularly serious in infants and older adults, who are more likely to develop severe cases and need hospitalization.

When Should I Get My Shots?

Get the flu shot as soon as possible so that you are protected as early as possible. Flu season lasts anywhere from October through May, so now is the right time to get your flu shot.

Get the updated COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after your last dose. Most individuals are eligible to get the updated vaccine now.

If eligible, you can get flu and COVID-19 shots at the same time, one shot in each arm.

Adults 60 years of age and older should talk to their health care provider now about getting the RSV vaccine. To prevent severe RSV disease in infants, CDC recommends either maternal RSV vaccination during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy or infant immunization. Most infants will not need both.

More information about the RSV vaccine is available on the CDC’s recommendations page.

Infectious Windows for the Triple Threat Viruses

You may be wondering how long someone is contagious after they get sick. The following list may help answer some of these questions:

  • Flu – Contagious for approximately five to seven days after the start of symptoms.
  • RSV – Contagious for approximately three to eight days after the start of symptoms.
  • COVID-19 – On average, people can begin spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 two to three days before their symptoms begin, but infectiousness peaks one day before their symptoms begin.

People can also spread the virus that causes COVID-19 without experiencing any symptoms. On average, people are considered contagious for about eight days after their symptoms began. The best way to know if you are infectious is to take an at-home test.

Importance of Prevention

Prevention is key to help stop the spread of respiratory viruses like COVID-19, flu, and RSV. You can take everyday actions that can stop the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow, arm, or disposable tissue.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay away from people who are sick and stay home when sick.
  • Wear a mask in indoor public or crowded spaces. Wearing a mask can protect babies and young children who do not yet have immunity and are too young to wear a mask themselves.
  • Get your flu, COVID-19, and RSV vaccines.

Data show that the COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines are safe (when taken as recommended) and highly effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization. Simply put, you stand a significantly better chance of fighting these viruses with the vaccines than without.

How Do I Get My Shots?

You can get your vaccines with your primary care provider or health plan. They are covered by your CalPERS health plan at no cost to you.

Additionally, your local county offices may offer flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics throughout the fall. For more locations and information, visit