Pennsylvania Health Officials Urge Vaccinations Ahead of Holiday Gatherings

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PENNSYLVANIA — As the holiday season approaches, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging residents to get vaccinated against flu and COVID-19. The call comes as the number of flu and COVID-19 cases typically rise during the winter respiratory disease season.

Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen emphasized the importance of vaccinations during a visit to a vaccine clinic at the Blair County State Health Center. She stated, “Getting vaccinated remains the most effective way to protect yourself against respiratory viruses that regularly circulate during the holiday season. Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations slow the spread of disease, prevent severe illness, and lower the likelihood of hospitalization.”

Both flu and COVID-19 vaccines have been updated to protect against new virus variants. These vaccines are recommended for people six months of age and older, with particular emphasis on high-risk groups such as older adults, those with certain medical conditions, and people at a higher risk of developing complications from respiratory illness.

For the first time, a vaccine is available to protect older adults from severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Monoclonal antibody products can also protect infants and young children from severe RSV.

Dr. Bogen urged residents to get vaccinated ahead of holiday gatherings, reminding them that it takes up to two weeks to reach full immunity after receiving the vaccines.

Symptoms of respiratory viruses include fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and fatigue among others. High-risk individuals are advised to seek medical attention and get tested as soon as symptoms arise. Antiviral medications are available for flu, COVID-19, and RSV, which can ease symptoms and reduce the risk of serious health outcomes if started early.

Most insurance plans cover flu, COVID-19, and RSV immunizations. For underinsured or uninsured individuals, the COVID-19 vaccine is available through State Health Centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and the CDC Bridge Access Program. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program provides no-cost vaccines to eligible children.

Residents with insurance-related questions or issues can contact the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. For more information and to find a nearby vaccination location, residents are encouraged to visit vaccines.gov.

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