By Bridgett Kenny, Bridget Kenny, RN, BSN, Mosaic Medical Center – Maryville community health nurse liaison, community outreach

Though many of us may have already experienced one of the dreaded “summer colds;” it is important that we recognize that fall is rapidly approaching and the Mosaic Medical Center – Maryville professionals want to do our best to keep you informed on how to stay well this cold and flu season.

As you all may know, one of the best defenses against illness is to protect yourself by frequently handwashing, keeping your hands away from your face, that is eyes, nose, mouth; and maintaining a safe distance from others who may be exhibiting cold/flu symptoms. With that being said, if you do not feel good, protect others by staying home or keeping your distance. If you must go out in public, masks and hand sanitizer are still great ways to prevent the spread of illness. If a sneeze or cough sneaks up on us, we can also reduce exposure to those around us by coughing into our elbow or a tissue and then cleansing our hands again.

Our caregivers are experiencing an increased number of inquiries about recommendations for vaccines and immunizations currently. Our providers use the most up-to-date information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The 15 committee members, many of which are healthcare experts, make their recommendations based on evidence-based research.

Influenza vaccines are recommended for everyone who is six months or older and will be available at the clinic by October. A higher dose of the vaccine will also be available for individuals 65 years and older. Our team will provide communication via social media and with our newspaper partners when drive-through clinic dates are determined.

Upper respiratory infections have the potential to increase a person’s risk for pneumonia. If you are 65 years or older or are at increased risk of complications due to pneumonia, your provider will determine which pneumonia vaccine, either Prevnar 20 or Pneumovax 23, is right for you.

Caregiver Tracie Price, LPN points out that “the CDC has currently approved a new Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine for individuals 60 years and older” who are at higher risk of complications from upper respiratory infection. Eventually, the vaccine or a similar vaccine may be made available for other at-risk populations.

COVID-19 has mutated over time, and we frequently hear of a new variant. Though Pfizer is working on the distribution of a new vaccine, Bivalent continues to be ACIP’s recommended and available vaccine for our area. It can be administered to individuals six months and older, who wish to have the additional layer of protection. If it has been over four months since your last Bivalent dose, your doctor may recommend another if you are over 65 years of age or have underlying conditions that may prevent your body from effectively fighting off illness.

As always, if you have any questions regarding specific immunization recommendations, your provider or a member of the Mosaic Medical Center – Maryville team will be happy to help.