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RSV vaccines are available for elderly, infants

This is the first year the shots are available.

As the holidays approach, so do common colds, flu and covid.

This year, vaccines are available for another prolific winter illness – RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. Molly Howell is immunization director for the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services. She says this is the first year that vaccines are available for RSV, and they are available to populations that are most at risk – including the elderly, and young children. She says elderly people can access RSV vaccines at most pharmacies, but shots for babies are in high demand and short supply. Howell says the vaccine is a monoclonal antibody shot for infants under six months of age, all American Indian children and other children with health concerns.

Howell says for women who are pregnant this season, a vaccine is available to them that will pass protection onto their babies. She says if parents aren’t able to get the vaccines for their babies, there are other ways to protect them from RSV.

"They are the things we have been kind of used to, especially the last few years - like, washing hands, covering cough, staying home when sick. The other thing that a lot of people don't realize, is if you're able to, breastfeeding has been shown to be protective against RSV, so that's another really good option if women are able to breastfeed. That also has some protective effects against RSV."

Howell says parents can ask their health care providers about RSV vaccines for their children. She says RSV is the most common illness requiring hospitalization for infants in the country.