The nation is entering an “unprecedented vaccine season,” with the availability of vaccines for three viruses responsible for the most hospitalizations among older adults, according to Omnicare pharmacists.
During a LeadingAge public policy update call for members on Monday, Todd King and Beth Coryea, Omnicate executive directors, discussed what’s new with influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus viruses, as well as the vaccines designed to reduce their effects.
Looking to countries that have already gone through, or are going through, flu season, King said that the current flu vaccine is showing 52% overall effectiveness in reducing respiratory infections.
“We can all really be comfortable with the vaccine we have right now for the flu is going to provide reasonable immunogenicity for our residents and staff,” he said, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all residents in long-term care facilities be vaccinated by the end of October.
The two recently approved COVID-19 vaccines contain monovalent formulas that correspond to the now-circulating omicron variant, King said. The CDC recommended that everyone six months and older receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
New with this year’s vaccines are the fact that they are commercialized, meaning like pneumococcal or RSV or flu vaccines, they are available through the routine payer process.
King said that he anticipates that the COVID-19 vaccine will be an annual shot, but the frequency has yet to be decided.
RSV kills 6,000 to 10,000 older adults in long-term care each year. This year, an RSV vaccine was approved for adults aged 60 or more years who use shared clinical decision-making between older adults and their healthcare providers.
King said that RSV vaccine accessibility initially might be limited, as pharmacies continue to add it to their list of formularies, but he said that he’s confident that the issue will be corrected quickly.
As with the COVID-19 vaccine, the frequency of the RSV vaccine in the future has not been confirmed, he said, adding that that it could be recommended that people get the shot annually or every other year.
King also highlighted the CDC’s update on egg-based vaccines, saying that for the first time, the agency said that an egg allergy by itself is not a reason to avoid a vaccine, including flu shots.
The CDC recently announced that any vaccine — egg-based or not — that otherwise is appropriate for a recipient’s age and health status can be used. That being said, King said, anyone receiving a vaccine of any kind should be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes after administration to guard against severe reaction.
COVID-19 vaccines, like flu and pneumococcal vaccines, are billable under Medicare Part B. The RSV vaccine, on the other hand, is billed under Medicare Part D.
It is possible to receive all three vaccines in one visit, King said. In that case, the CDC recommends using both arms, especially for older adults receiving the recommended higher-dose flu vaccines.