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Explore the latest adult vaccine developments and get helpful tips on how to communicate timely and accurate information to your friends, family and community members with the below talking points.

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Last Updated: November 22, 2022

How do you host a COVID-safe holiday gathering?

Encourage everyone to take a rapid test before gathering. 

  • In the week leading up to the event, consider asking people to wear an N95 mask in public and limit social activities as much as possible to reduce the chance of getting infected.
  • Guests may also want to stock up on their eight free COVID-19 tests for the month.
  • On the day of the event, consider taking a rapid test right before gathering. If it comes back positive, you are most likely infectious and should stay home.
  • Guests who are experiencing symptoms should also stay home, even if they receive a negative rapid test. COVID-19 is not the only infectious disease of
    concern—flu and RSV are in high circulation this fall.

Use ventilation and filtration tools to reduce indoor COVID-19 transmission. 

  • Both ventilation and filtration help improve indoor air quality. Ventilation moves outdoor air into a space while filtration removes unwanted particles from the air.
  • Open the windows to improve ventilation. To increase airflow, set up a fan in front of the window, facing outward, or turn on exhaust fans in the house.
  • Consider building an affordable Corsi-Rosenthal box to filter air in the main gathering room. You can find instructions here in English and Spanish.
  • HEPA air purifiers are another, more expensive filtration option. This air purifier is a popular option, and this one is recommended for larger rooms.

Be considerate of guests who are immunocompromised or at high risk. 

  • For many people, it may feel like the pandemic is over. But immunocompromised and high-risk individuals often cannot afford to abandon precautions and risk infection.
  • In order to prioritize everyone’s health and safety, consider limiting the event to people who have received their flu shot and COVID-19 vaccines, preferably including an updated booster.
  • Try to keep children under 6 months away from guests since they cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 yet and are also at high risk of severe illness from flu and RSV.
  • Maximize ventilation and filtration to reduce the risk of transmission indoors.
  • Take advantage of N95 masks and social distancing if needed, even though it may be awkward. The goal is to enjoy the festivities and return home safe and healthy.
View Resource Download resource: English / Spanish
Last Updated: November 14, 2022

How to get free or low-cost COVID-19 testing

People with insurance can get eight free at-home tests per month. 

  • If you have private insurance, tests will be free either at the point of sale or by reimbursement depending on whether the vendor is part of your insurer’s
    network. Have your insurance card ready at checkout and save your receipt if you need to submit a reimbursement claim.
  • People with Medicare Part B can get tests for free with no upfront cost as long as they’re from one of the program’s participating pharmacies (here is a partial list).
  • If you have Medicaid or CHIP coverage, you can also get at-home COVID-19 tests for free. Contact your specific agency for more details.
  • Some insurers may allow you to order tests directly through their website or through the CVS, Walgreens, or Rite Aid websites.

People without insurance can access free tests through community health centers.

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided up to 50 million at-home tests to community health centers and Medicare-certified health clinics nationwide for free distribution.
  • HHS also established more than 10,000 free community-based pharmacy testing sites around the country.
  • Find your state’s free or low-cost testing sites here and additional community health centers near you here.
  • Call ahead to make an appointment and check for availability of free or low-cost tests.

Check your at-home test’s expiration date before using it. 

  • Expired at-home COVID-19 tests can lead to inaccurate or invalid test results.
  • Expiration dates will be printed in year-month-day format on the test kit box, sometimes next to a small hourglass symbol.
  • The FDA extended the expiration dates for some at-home test kits. Check the chart on this page for updates.
  • When checking for updated expiration dates, you may have to identify the test kit’s batch number, a serial code that will be next to a rectangular symbol with
    “LOT” inside
    .
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Last Updated: November 07, 2022

How can flu and COVID vaccines protect from the "tripledemic"?

This year’s flu season is expected to be more severe than usual. Get a flu shot ASAP.

  • Flu cases are rising earlier than expected, and flu-related hospitalizations have not been this high at this point in the season since 2010-2011.
  • Get your flu shot as soon as possible to lower the chance of severe infection and help reduce transmission. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get the flu shot, with rare exceptions.
  • Make an appointment at a local CVS or Walgreens, or use this vaccine locator to find a site near you. It is safe to get your flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

RSV cases are hospitalizing a record number of children. 

  • RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common respiratory infection that can block airways. People at high risk for severe infection include infants and young
    children, older adults, and adults with chronic medical conditions.
  • This year, RSV cases are rising earlier than usual and causing more severe illness among kids.
  • Weekly RSV cases in October were at the highest levels seen in the last two years, and many children’s hospitals and pediatric intensive care units are now at or past capacity.
  • There is no RSV vaccine yet, so the best way to prevent transmission is to wear masks, wash your hands, and stay home if sick.

Get an updated COVID-19 booster to help prevent a “tripledemic” of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 this winter.

  • Nationwide COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain stable, but some Southwest states, including Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, are seeing
    concerning trends.
  • New Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have been rising quickly, now making up 27 percent of circulating COVID-19 viruses.
  • A combination of waning COVID-19 immunity, lack of exposure to other respiratory viruses, and more indoor gatherings could fuel a “tripledemic” of all
    three viruses this winter.
  • States are no longer enforcing COVID-19 guidelines like masking and social distancing, so it’s crucial to take your own precautions: Get your flu shot and
    updated COVID-19 booster, wear masks in high-risk situations, stay home when sick, and wash your hands regularly. 
View Resource Download resource: English / Spanish
Last Updated: October 31, 2022

Does adding COVID-19 to the routine vax schedule make it mandatory?

The CDC is not making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for school entry. 

  • Adding COVID-19 vaccines to the recommended immunization list does not impact vaccine requirements for school entry.
  • Decisions around school vaccine requirements lie with states, counties, and municipalities.
  • Currently, all 50 states require vaccines for tetanus, polio, measles, and chickenpox for kindergarten enrollment. But state mandates around other
    recommended vaccines vary.
  • Only California and Washington, D.C., have announced a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students, while 21 states have banned COVID-19 vaccine
    mandates for students
    .

Adding COVID-19 vaccines to the recommended immunization list helps expand access.

  • Federal COVID-19 funds are running dry, which means COVID-19 vaccines may soon no longer be free for people who are uninsured.
  • The inclusion of COVID-19 vaccines in the recommended immunization schedule guarantees that kids without health insurance can continue to get the shots for free.
  • Schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for you and your child. Kids ages 6 months and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine primary series, and kids ages 5 years and older can now get an Omicron booster.

Access to adult vaccines is also expanding for people on Medicare. 

  • Signed in August, the Inflation Reduction Act makes improvements to Medicare that include saving money on vaccines.
  •  All recommended adult vaccines will be free (with no deductible and no cost-sharing) to people with Medicare prescription drug coverage starting in
    2023.
  • Free vaccines will include the ones for shingles and tetanus as well as for COVID-19 once federal funds run dry.
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Last Updated: October 24, 2022

What can we expect from the new variants?

The COVID-19 virus has not stopped mutating.

  • There has been no new Greek letter-named variant since Omicron, but that doesn’t mean the virus has stopped mutating.
  • The Omicron variant has mutated into several different versions that are one potential reason for increasing case numbers in countries in Europe and Asia.
  • Each of these new Omicron spinoffs seems to be better than BA.5 at evading existing immunity, and some have shown signs of rendering monoclonal
    treatments ineffective
    .

A “variant swarm” could drive the next wave.

  • Experts warn that we may not see one dominant variant of concern this winter but rather a group of Omicron sublineages that each have some ability to evade immunity.
  • BA.5 continues to be the dominant variant in the U.S., though its prevalence has decreased to 68 percent of circulating COVID-19 viruses, compared to 87
    percent at its peak in late August.
  • Other versions of the Omicron variant have started to increase, including BA.4.6 and BF.7, accounting for about 12 percent and 5 percent of circulating viruses, respectively.
  • BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 have grown significantly over the past couple of weeks, together making up 11 percent of circulating viruses. These two sublineages
    represent 20 percent of infections in the New York and New Jersey area.

Get your booster by Halloween to ensure that you are protected by Thanksgiving. 

  • Despite the immune-evasive properties of new strains, the BA.5 bivalent boosters remain one of our best tools and will likely continue to prevent at least the most severe outcomes of COVID-19 illness.
  • Everyone ages 5 and older can now get an updated booster two months after completing their primary series or receiving their first booster.
  • Wearing N95 masks in indoor public settings can help reduce the impact of a winter surge.
  • Testing before and after travel and holiday gatherings will also be crucial to limiting transmission.

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