A closeup of the COVID-19 virus

Protecting Yourself Against the Flu, COVID-19, and RSV

As we gear up for cozy sweaters and colder weather, it's also time to think about protecting ourselves and our loved ones from a trifecta of respiratory illnesses, which includes seasonal influenza (flu), COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Continue reading to learn how vaccines are key to prevention.

Flu vaccinations 

Each year, the flu vaccine is updated to target specific strains that health officials believe will be prevalent in the upcoming season. Getting vaccinated for the flu is important, especially for those at higher risk of severe illness, such as the elderly and individuals with certain underlying health conditions. 

"The flu and COVID-19 can have similar symptoms, making it essential to reduce the risk of contracting both infections. The flu vaccine is readily available and can help prevent not only illness but also reduce the burden on health care systems," says Stephen Ferrara, DNP, associate dean of clinical affairs at Columbia University School of Nursing and president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. 

Every semester, Columbia University hosts various flu fairs where students, faculty, and staff can get vaccinated at no cost. Click here to learn more. 

COVID-19 vaccinations 

It is recommended that all eligible individuals take the COVID-19 vaccine, including boosters. This vaccine, which targets XBB.1.5 and subsequent variants, not only helps prevent severe illness but also reduces transmission of the coronavirus in the community. Updated COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are now available across New York state.  

RSV vaccinations 

RSV can cause severe respiratory infections, especially among young children and infants. It can also be dangerous for older adults with underlying medical conditions or weakened immune systems.  

"Even though RSV is less common among students, we want to ensure everyone's well-being. If you have a child or are an individual 60 years of age and older, consider discussing the RSV vaccine with your health care provider. The availability of the RSV vaccine for older adults is a recent development. The FDA approved distribution of the vaccine in May and the vaccine is arriving at offices and pharmacies now," explains Ferrara. 

Getting vaccinated is key to protecting ourselves and our community. With proper vaccination and preventive measures, we can enjoy a safer and healthier semester on campus.