As residents prepare for fun with friends and family on Thanksgiving and through the holiday season, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) encourages everyone to get their updated immunizations now to protect themselves and others from respiratory diseases.
People are most at risk for seasonal viruses, including influenza (flu), the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19, during the fall and winter months and especially at large holiday gatherings such as Thanksgiving.
“Our major holidays fall within what we consider respiratory virus season, so it’s important that everyone take precautions to ensure they stay safe and healthy while enjoying time with family and friends during the holiday season,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “Immunizations play a key role in avoiding illness and keeping our loved ones well, so we encourage everyone to ensure they are up to date on their vaccinations.”
DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the updated COVID vaccine and the annual flu vaccine, if they have not already received them this fall.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and recommended the first vaccine for preventing lower respiratory tract disease from RSV for adults 60 years and older.
The FDA and CDC also approved and recommended another preventive option, a monoclonal antibody, for infants under 8 months old who are at highest risk for complications from RSV or are born during—or entering—their first RSV season. A monoclonal antibody for prevention is also available for a small group of children who are between 8 and 19 months old and at high risk for severe disease (including children who are severely immunocompromised). Talk with your child’s pediatrician regarding RSV prevention for your infant.
“Taking the simple step of getting vaccinated can help prevent you from getting sick, and even if you get sick, vaccination also markedly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death, allowing you to spend this holiday season with friends and family,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “Appointments are available, so we highly encourage you to reach out to your health care provider or find a provider to schedule your updated shots.”
Those who are sick or are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness are encouraged not to attend social gatherings.
DHEC and the CDC conduct surveillance to see what impact respiratory diseases are having on the health of people and communities. Every Wednesday, DHEC compiles South Carolina’s data for weekly surveillance reports called Flu Watch and the new Respiratory Disease Watch, which covers COVID-19, flu and RSV. Additionally, the CDC provides projections of possible respiratory disease activity this season; see Respiratory Disease Season Outlook. The anticipated hospitalizations could be reduced if we achieve higher vaccination coverage for these diseases.
For additional information on vaccines, including how to schedule an appointment and find a provider, visit www.scdhec.gov/vaccinations.