Tripledemic? How to prepare for a mix of COVID, RSV, and flu this fall

This is the first season vaccines will be available for all three illnesses.
A nurse prepares a syringe of a COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station in Jackson, Miss., July 19, 2022.
Posted at 5:54 PM, Aug 09, 2023

Health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning of a possible tripledemic this fall, which means respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the flu, and COVID variants circulating at once.

"It's an opportunity to educate patients about the vaccines that are eligible for their age, and worry less about this worst case scenario of all of them hitting at once," said Dr. Scott Joy, an internal medicine physician and chief medical officer for HealthONE Physician Services Group.

A new COVID variant, nicknamed Eris, is also becoming prominent in the United States. "With the new COVID variant, we're really careful in watching our ER visit utilization, our hospitalizations, to see if it really is causing more of the complications," Dr. Joy said.

This is the first winter vaccines will be available for all three illnesses.

Earlier this year, the FDA approved an RSV vaccine for those 60 years and older and a second drug that will help prevent the illness in babies and toddlers.

After decades of attempts, FDA approves 1st vaccine for RSV
Electron micrograph of human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

After decades of attempts, FDA approves 1st vaccine for RSV

According to the FDA, Arexvy reduced the risk of developing RSV-associated LRTD by 82.6% and severe RSV-associated LRTD by 94.1%.


"I think the initial rollout, at least from my perspective as an internist, will be to focus on those 60-year and older patients that do have a chronic condition, and see how we do with that population in the first year and then look at expanding that based on our experience," Dr. Joy said.

So when is it best to get vaccines?

"Definitely get your yearly flu shot, that should be September, October," he said. "Some of the COVID booster and RSV vaccines, I think initially, we're going to be pretty targeted with those until we get a little bit more data."

For COVID booster shots, Dr. Joy said those will likely be targeted to those 75 and older with chronic conditions, rather than a blanket vaccination for the general population. An RSV vaccine will likely be recommended for those 60 and older with chronic medical conditions, he said.

Doctors also recommend washing your hands, staying home from work or school when you're sick, and watching your distance with others to stay healthy. These are practices you can follow all year. 

"I don't want people to kind of be complacent with thinking, 'Oh, I'm good until the fall', I want them to be thinking about infectious diseases all year round," Dr. Joy said.

He explained that the flu shot can help with other viruses as well. "There is some evidence saying that patients who get a yearly flu shot are less likely to get common viruses as well," Dr. Joy said.

@scrippsnews Could we see a tripledemic this fall? Health experts warn of a potential mix of COVID, RSV, and #flu cases. Doctors explain what measures you can take to stay safe and boost your immune system. #health ♬ original sound - Scripps News

CDC recommends new RSV vaccine for babies under 8 months
AstraZeneca packaging for their medication Beyfortus.

CDC recommends new RSV vaccine for babies under 8 months

RSV causes 58,000 hospitalizations annually among children under age 5.