Policy Issue

Policy Watch: Managing the "Triple-demic"

December 19, 2022

Typical seasonal patterns of illness have been disrupted and public health practitioners are now concerned about the “triple-demic” - coinciding high rates of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19.

One theory among scientists is that social distancing and masking guidelines from the early waves of the pandemic helped prevent the spread of illness, and in doing so, postponed when many children are exposed to common viruses, like seasonal flu and RSV. Also being researched are theories about how the three illnesses interact with one another, and whether previous COVID infection impairs the body’s immune response. While the illnesses are not new, health systems are now faced with a greater number of patients earlier in the season which is further straining inpatient capacity already burdened with workforce issues.

What can be done? Getting the COVID-19 bivalent booster and the annual flu vaccine helps limit the spread of the viruses and severity of illness should one become infected. In early December, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized bivalent COVID-19 vaccines for children 6 months and older so even the youngest children can have protection. A vaccine for RSV is expected within the next year. To find sites offering flu and COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, click here.

In addition, people attending gatherings over the holiday season should consider frequent testing for COVID-19 and masking when indoors or in public settings.

Visit our dashboards to view COVID-19 vaccine uptake rates and incidence rates in MetroWest.

To see flu vaccine uptake rates across the state and how this year’s flu season compares to past years, click here.

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