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Last Updated: April 01, 2024

What supports are available for people with long COVID?

There is still no single, FDA-approved treatment for long COVID, but doctors can help patients manage individual symptoms.

  • Therapies, including those to improve lung function and retrain your sense of smell, as well as medications for pain and blood pressure regulation, may be part of long COVID treatment.
  • Studying myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and HIV may help researchers better understand long COVID and improve treatment options.
  • Getting diagnosed and treated for long COVID may be challenging for patients—especially for women and people of color, whose symptoms may be dismissed by doctors. Incorporating mental health support and seeking support from loved ones may help patients manage the stress associated with seeking treatment.

Long COVID patients may be eligible for government benefits that can ease financial burdens.

Getting reinfected with COVID-19 can worsen existing long COVID symptoms, but patients can take steps to stay protected.

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Last Updated: March 12, 2024

Do I need another COVID-19 vaccination this Spring?

The CDC recommends people 65 and older receive an additional dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine this spring after at least four months since they received a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • People who are immunocompromised may receive an additional dose of the updated vaccine at least two months after their last dose.
  • The shot would be an additional dose of the updated Pfizer, Moderna, or Novavax vaccines that were approved last fall.
  • It’s safe to receive an updated vaccine from any of the three manufacturers, regardless of which COVID-19 vaccines you received in the past.
  • Updated COVID-19 vaccines are available at pharmacies. Visit Vaccines.gov to find an appointment near you.

Updated COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting against severe illness, hospitalization, death, and long COVID.

  • Last October and November, adults who had recently received an updated COVID-19 vaccine accounted for only 4 percent of COVID-19-related hospitalizations.
  • Those who were vaccinated against COVID-19 in 2022—but did not receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine—accounted for 25 percent of COVID-19-related hospitalizations.
  • Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines is a safer and more reliable way to build protection against COVID-19 than getting sick from COVID-19.

The CDC has also updated isolation recommendations for people who are sick with COVID-19.

  • According to the CDC’s general respiratory virus guidance, people who are sick with COVID-19 or another common respiratory illness, like the flu or RSV, should isolate until they’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their symptoms are improving.
  • After that, the CDC recommends that people who are sick take additional precautions for the next five days, including masking while around others and improving ventilation.
  • COVID-19 remains a highly contagious disease that can cause severe illness, death, and long-term health complications. If you are sick with COVID-19, you can infect others for five to 12 days, or longer.
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Last Updated: February 26, 2024

Has CDC shortened the isolation period for COVID?

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the CDC may loosen its COVID-19 isolation guidelines, but changes haven’t been announced.

  • According to the potential updated guidelines, people who test positive for COVID-19 would only need to isolate until they’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their symptoms are improving.
  • We don’t know if these guidelines will involve masking or if there will be different guidelines for higher-risk people who are infected with COVID-19.
  • The CDC is expected to release its new guidelines for public comment in April.

Current CDC guidelines recommend that people who test positive for COVID-19 isolate for five days.

  • The isolation period starts at the onset of symptoms or, if you do not have symptoms, the test date.
  • During the five-day isolation period, the CDC recommends wearing a high-quality mask around others, avoiding travel, improving ventilation in your home, and using a separate bathroom and personal items from others in your household.
  • If your symptoms do not improve within five days, the CDC says you should continue to isolate until you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your symptoms are improving.
  • If you know you were exposed to the COVID-19 virus, the CDC recommends wearing a high-quality mask around others for 10 days after exposure and watching for symptoms such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If you develop symptoms, get tested as soon as possible and isolate until you get your result.

The contagiousness of COVID-19 has not changed.

Last Updated: February 09, 2024

What does COVID-19 do to my immune system?

COVID-19 infections can cause long-lasting changes to our immune systems.

  • A 2023 study found that COVID-19 infections may reduce our production of “killer T-cells,” which help our bodies fight off infections. 
  • Another recent study found that our innate immune cells—our immune systems’ first line of defense—remain altered for at least one year after a COVID-19 infection, causing a long-term inflammatory response.
  • These changes to immune cells might make our immune systems less efficient, putting us at greater risk of severe illness from future infections.

Every time we get infected with the COVID-19 virus, our risk of dangerous health outcomes increases.

  • A 2022 study found that people who had been infected with COVID-19 at least twice experienced higher rates of short- and long-term health complications compared to those who had only been infected once. 
  • Those who had multiple COVID-19 infections were three times more likely to be hospitalized than those who only had one COVID-19 infection. 
  • People with multiple COVID-19 infections were also more likely to develop blood clots as well as damage to their heart, lungs, and brain.

COVID-19 vaccines strengthen our immune systems by teaching cells how to respond to the virus.

  • The CDC says getting vaccinated is a safer and more reliable way to build protection against COVID-19 than getting sick from the virus. 
  • The CDC recommends the updated COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Find appointments near you at Vaccines.gov.
  • Implementing additional mitigation methods like masking helps prevent immune system damage caused by COVID-19 infections.
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Last Updated: January 29, 2024

Do COVID-19 vaccines prevent long COVID?

Long COVID describes a cluster of symptoms occurring after a COVID-19 infection that can range from mild to debilitating.

  • Symptoms may include fatigue, chest pain, brain fog, dizziness, abdominal pain, joint pain, and changes in taste or smell. These symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. 
  • Scientists still don’t know why some people develop long COVID. One possibility is that fragments of the virus linger in the body after infection, causing chronic inflammation. Another is that long COVID is an autoimmune disease triggered by a COVID-19 infection.
  • There is no specific treatment for long COVID, but health care providers can help patients manage individual symptoms.

Anyone who gets infected with COVID-19 is at risk of developing long COVID, and some populations are at greater risk.

  • Unvaccinated people are at greater risk of developing long COVID.
  • Women are more likely than men to develop long COVID.
  • People who experience health inequities may be more likely to develop long COVID and face barriers to treatment.

Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines is an effective way to reduce your risk of long COVID.

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Last Updated: January 19, 2024

How do we know COVID vaccines are safe?

DNA fragments are present in all vaccines, but they cannot change our bodies’ DNA.

  • Scientists use cells to produce vaccines, and those cells contain DNA. When our bodies are exposed to DNA fragments in vaccines, our bodies destroy them
  • It is biologically impossible for DNA fragments in vaccines to change our own DNA because they lack the mechanism required to enter the cell nuclei, where our DNA lives. 
  • Regulators around the world agree that the level of DNA fragments in COVID-19 vaccines is well below the acceptable limit.

Lipid (fat) nanoparticles in mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

  • mRNA is fragile, so it needs to be surrounded by fat bubbles called lipid nanoparticles in order to travel throughout the body and teach our cells how to protect against COVID-19.
  • Lipid-based drug delivery systems have been studied for more than 40 years and have been determined to be safe. Without them, COVID-19 vaccines would not exist.
  • Lipid nanoparticles in COVID-19 vaccine are cleared from the body within days.

There is strong evidence that COVID-19 vaccines do not cause cancer.

  • Florida’s surgeon general and others have falsely claimed that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines contain SV40, a virus that has been suspected of causing cancer.
  • The SV40 virus is not present in COVID-19 vaccines, but a piece of SV40’s DNA sequence was used as “starting material” to develop COVID-19 vaccines.
  • This sequence has been used to develop other vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, which has been safely administered for decades.
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Last Updated: January 02, 2024

What causes myocarditis?

Myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, is most commonly caused by a viral infection.

  • Bacteria, parasites, fungi, chemicals, and certain medications can also cause myocarditis.
  • Symptoms of myocarditis include chest pain, shortness of breath, and rapid or irregular heart rhythms. While some cases may be severe, most resolve themselves without permanent complications.
  • Cases of myocarditis after vaccination have occurred in less than 1 percent of people, and those cases were usually mild. Among vaccine-induced myocarditis patients, 2 percent went to the ICU and nearly all recovered fully.

A COVID-19 infection is much more likely to cause myocarditis than a COVID-19 vaccine, and those cases are typically more severe.

  • Among patients who experienced myocarditis after a viral infection, half went to the ICU, a quarter did not fully recover, and up to 22 percent died.
  • A 2022 study found that people who contracted COVID-19 were seven times more likely to develop myocarditis than those who received the vaccine.
  • The benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any potential risks because getting vaccinated reduces the risk of getting myocarditis after a COVID-19 infection.

Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from myocarditis.

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Last Updated: December 05, 2023

What can I do to stay healthy this winter?

Breathing cold air reduces our noses’ ability to fight off viruses.

  • A 2022 study found that reducing the temperature inside the nose by as little as 9 degrees Fahrenheit kills nearly half of the virus-fighting cells in our nostrils.
  • In addition to protecting you from inhaling viral particles, wearing a mask over your nose and mouth can prevent you from breathing in the cold winter air, keeping your nose warm and protecting your virus-fighting cells.
  • Keeping your home warm and humid can protect your nose’s virus-fighting cells.

Indoor heating dries out the air, allowing viruses to spread more easily.

  • When indoor air is dry, there are fewer water molecules available to slow down particles expelled through coughing and sneezing.
  • Using humidifiers indoors during colder months may reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.
  • Improving indoor ventilation by opening doors and windows, investing in high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, or building your own Corsi-Rosenthal box can also reduce the spread of airborne respiratory viruses indoors.

During the holiday season, we spend more time gathering indoors, giving our bodies more opportunities to encounter germs.

  • If you still haven’t received an updated COVID-19 vaccine, flu shot, and RSV vaccine (if you’re eligible), schedule an appointment today at Vaccines.gov.
  • Wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask indoors protects you from all kinds of viruses, including COVID-19, the flu, and RSV.
  • The CDC says washing your hands regularly can prevent one in five respiratory infections.
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Last Updated: November 21, 2023

How can I protect myself and others this holiday season?

If you still haven’t received an updated COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot, schedule an appointment now at Vaccines.gov.

Wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when you travel.

  • Masks protect us from all kinds of viruses, including COVID-19, the flu, and RSV.
  • The CDC recommends masking indoors on planes, trains, buses, and boats, as well as at transportation hubs since we’re likely to encounter germs in crowded spaces.
  • N95 and KN95 masks offer the best protection since they filter out at least 95 percent of infectious particles when they fit properly.

If you’re hosting a gathering, improve ventilation in your household.

  • Open windows and doors to increase airflow and reduce the spread of airborne respiratory viruses.
  • Consider investing in high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which clean the air by efficiently removing more than 99 percent of particles.
  • If HEPA filters are outside of your budget, you can build your own Corsi-Rosenthal box, which can capture about 85 percent of infectious particles.
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Last Updated: November 06, 2023

Should pregnant people get an updated COVID-19 vaccine?

People who are or were recently pregnant are more likely to become seriously sick from a COVID-19 infection.

  • Pregnancy can cause diabetes and high blood pressure, which increase the risk of severe symptoms from a COVID-19 infection.
  • Getting infected with COVID-19 while pregnant can nearly double the risk of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that can be life-threatening.
  • Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccination protects pregnant people against severe illness and death from the virus, prevents adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, and passes protective antibodies to the fetus.

If a pregnant person gets infected with COVID-19, their baby is at risk of severe outcomes.

  • A COVID-19 infection may result in miscarriage, preterm birth, or stillbirth, even when the pregnant person isn’t experiencing severe symptoms.
  • A COVID-19 infection may also impact the fetus’s brain development.
  • Getting vaccinated during pregnancy is safe for the developing fetus. Babies who are exposed to COVID-19 vaccines in utero are protected up to 6 months and less likely to die or be admitted to a NICU than those who are not exposed to COVID-19 vaccines.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and recommended for pregnant people.

  • Dozens of studies show that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is safe for people who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. There is strong evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t impact fertility.
  • The CDC recommends the updated COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and trying to get pregnant.
  • Visit Vaccines.gov to find pharmacies near you offering the updated COVID-19 vaccine.
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Last Updated: October 20, 2023

Is there an updated Novavax (non-mRNA) COVID-19 vaccine?

Novavax’s updated COVID-19 vaccine is now available and recommended for everyone 12 and older.

  • People 12 and older who have never been vaccinated against COVID-19 can receive 2 doses of Novavax’s updated COVID-19 vaccine.
  • People who have received any previous COVID-19 vaccine are eligible for 1 dose of the updated vaccines from Novavax, Pfizer, or Moderna.
  • People who are immunocompromised may need additional doses.
  • If you currently have a COVID-19 infection, the CDC recommends you wait until your symptoms resolve to get your updated COVID-19 vaccine. If you recently had the virus, you should consider waiting 3 months to get vaccinated since studies show this may improve your immune response.

Novavax’s updated COVID-19 vaccine is different from Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, but they are all safe and effective at protecting us against the virus.

  • Novavax uses a coronavirus protein to prompt an immune response against COVID-19. Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology to teach cells how to prompt an immune response against COVID-19.
  • The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine uses the same technology as the flu shot, so those who are hesitant about mRNA technology may prefer it.
  • The CDC says staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines is a safer and more reliable way to build protection against COVID-19 than getting sick from COVID-19.

Updated COVID-19 vaccines are available at pharmacies.

  • Visit Vaccines.gov to find pharmacies near you offering updated COVID-19 vaccines from Novavax, Pfizer, and Moderna.
  • If you have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, your updated vaccine is free upfront as long as you see an in-network provider.
  • Under- and uninsured people can get the updated COVID-19 vaccine for free through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program.
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Last Updated: October 09, 2023

Do I have to pay for the updated COVID-19 vaccine?

The updated COVID-19 vaccine is available now for free at pharmacies, but the current supply is limited.

  • Visit Vaccines.gov to find pharmacies near you offering the updated vaccine. You may have to check the website frequently to find an available appointment.
  • Supply chain issues have made the updated vaccine difficult to access, but CVS and Walgreens have resolved their shipping delays.
  • If you’re one of the many parents struggling to find available vaccines for your children, schedule your own appointment now and continue checking Vaccines.gov in the coming weeks.

If you have private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, your updated COVID-19 vaccine is free.

  • Contact your insurance company to find an in-network pharmacy offering the updated vaccine.
  • If no pharmacy in your plan’s network has the vaccine, your insurance company should still cover the cost, even if you get it at a pharmacy that’s out of network.
  • If you are getting the updated vaccine from an out-of-network provider, you may have to pay for the vaccine (up to $200) upfront and get reimbursed by your insurance later. You may be able to file a reimbursement claim on your insurer’s website or print and mail your insurance company a physical copy of your claim.
  • Some people have been asked to pay for their vaccines upfront at in-network pharmacies. This was a result of billing code issues, and insurers say those issues have been resolved.

Under- and uninsured adults can get the updated COVID-19 vaccine for free through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program.

  • To find pharmacies and health centers partnering with the Bridge Access Program, visit Vaccines.gov, click on “Find COVID-19 Vaccines,” enter your zip code and select the vaccine option you want, click on “Search for COVID-19 Vaccines,” and check “Bridge Access Program Participant.” You can also call 1-800-232-0233. Anyone who needs a single dose of the updated vaccine can receive Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccine, regardless of your previous vaccines’ manufacturer.
  • Children can get the vaccine for free through the Vaccines for Children program, but appointments are currently hard to find.
  • If you’re over 60 and unable to leave your home, call the Aging Network at 1-800-677-1116 to learn about free, at-home vaccination options. If you’re disabled and unable to leave your home, call the Disability Information and Access Line at 1-888-677-1199.
Last Updated: September 27, 2023

Should I get an updated COVID-19 vaccine?

The updated COVID-19 vaccine is now available and recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

  • Anyone 5 years or older is eligible to receive one dose of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s updated vaccine, regardless of previous COVID-19 vaccination status.
  • People who are immunocompromised and children 6 months to 4 years may need additional doses.
  • If you’ve had a recent COVID-19 infection, the CDC suggests delaying vaccination for three months from when your symptoms started or from when you received a positive test result.

Getting your updated COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to remain protected against the virus.

The benefits of getting the updated shot outweigh the risks across age groups.

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Last Updated: September 12, 2023

What is the latest on BA.2.86?

BA.2.86, now dubbed Pirola, may be less contagious than experts first thought.

  • Several lab results have shown that our bodies can fight off BA.2.86 as well as or even more effectively than other currently circulating variants.
  • This means that “we can expect BA.2.86 to cause infections, but not as much as anticipated,” according to Your Local Epidemiologist.
  • Lab results also showed that people who had a recent XBB infection had the highest level of protection against BA.2.86.

BA.2.86 continues to spread but not as fast as the first Omicron variant.

The upcoming fall vaccines are expected to help protect us against BA.2.86, and so are some existing treatments.

Last Updated: September 11, 2023

What is BA.2.86?

Most COVID-19 indicators continue to rise in the U.S.

  • Most COVID-19 indicators continue to rise, according to the CDC: hospital admissions, emergency department visits, test positivity, and wastewater levels.
  • Hospital admissions rose by 18.8 percent between August 13 and August 19, while deaths rose by 21.4 percent in the same timeframe.
  • Notably, emergency department visits for COVID-19 have increased significantly among children younger than 1. Dr. Dean Winslow, professor of medicine at Stanford University, told Everyday Health that this may be because babies younger than 6 months are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, which may make them more vulnerable.
  • The EG.5 Omicron subvariant (also called Eris) is likely contributing to the current summer wave.

BA.2.86 is concerning because it is a highly mutated variant.

  • A new subvariant, BA.2.86, was recently detected in the U.S., Denmark, the U.K., and Israel. Because it’s been identified in multiple countries and also in wastewater, we know more cases are spreading undetected in communities.
  • BA.2.86 is a highly mutated variant, meaning it’s significantly different from more recent variants. Its genetic changes are concerning to some experts because they could potentially help the variant better evade a person’s prior immunity.
  • We don’t yet know if WHO will label BA.2.86 a variant of concern, like Omicron. If it does, the next Greek name in line is Pi.
  • We also don’t yet know if the variant will cause more severe disease or be more transmissible.

But it’s not all bad news: BA.2.86 is still COVID-19.

  • As Your Local Epidemiologist states, this new variant is still COVID-19, so our immune systems will recognize it.
  • The variant can also be detected on a PCR test, so it’s easier to track.
  • We’ll have more information soon; WHO, the CDC, and scientists are working to determine how our immune systems react to BA.2.86 in the real world and how well treatments like Paxlovid work against it.
Last Updated: August 14, 2023

Do you need a booster?

COVID-19 metrics are up across the country.

Experts think the wave could be due to waning immunity and indoor activities because of the heat.

  • Some experts believe this wave wasn’t caused by a new variant because all the current variants are Omicron descendants.
  • Others point to how fast the COVID-19 virus continues to mutate, compared to, for instance, the flu.
  • The wave could be due to our waning immunity and, most importantly, people moving back indoors for activities because of the heat.
  • The bivalent booster from last fall is not as effective against the new XBB Omicron subvariants, which are the current dominant strains.

Immunocompromised people and older adults should talk to their health care provider about possibly getting a booster.

Last Updated: July 28, 2023

Are COVID-19 cases increasing?

Several COVID-19 indicators showed small increases.

The World Health Organization is monitoring a new COVID-19 subvariant.

Deaths are not increasing, which is good news.

  • While there are some indicators on the rise, others are not, which is a good sign.
  • Deaths (considered one of the more accurate indicators) have not increased in the U.S.
  • It’s a good idea to remain cautious, especially for older adults and people who are immunocompromised.
Last Updated: July 26, 2023

Is COVID still contributing to excess deaths?

U.S. excess deaths have fallen to under 1 percent, but other metrics have increased.

  • Several databases, including the CDC’s, indicate that over the past three months, U.S. excess deaths have fallen to under 1 percent. This means that the number of Americans dying every day is no longer abnormally high.
  • This is a big milestone in the fight against COVID-19, especially considering that excess deaths during the past three years have ranged between above 10 percent and over 30 percent at their highest.
  • However, it’s important to note that people in the U.S. are still dying from COVID-19. According to the CDC, 324 people died from COVID-19 during the first week of July.
  • This means the pandemic is not quite over.
  • Some metrics point to an increase in cases. The University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reports that emergency department visits for COVID-19 are up 10.7 percent compared to the previous week, and test positivity also rose slightly in the U.S. Additionally, wastewater surveillance, which is usually an early COVID-19 indicator, is showing an increase in several U.S. regions.

Vaccination is a big reason why excess deaths have significantly dropped.

  • According to the CDC, 81.4 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 69.5 percent completed their primary series.
  • As the New York Times points out, most of the people who are dying from COVID-19 are both older and unvaccinated.
  • This means that vaccination is a significant factor in whether a person dies from COVID-19.

Experts also credit treatments and natural immunity.

  • Antiviral COVID-19 treatments like Paxlovid are also behind the decrease in excess deaths.
  • Paxlovid, an oral pill that received full FDA approval in May, reduces hospitalization and death by 86 percent in unvaccinated, high-risk people.
  • The fact that around 77.5 percent of people 16 and older in the U.S. have antibodies from COVID-19 infection is another reason why we may have reached this milestone.
Last Updated: July 17, 2023

How can we avoid another "tripledemic" this fall?

We will have vaccines to protect against COVID-19, the flu, and RSV this fall.

  • COVID-19, the flu, and RSV are all respiratory illnesses that are expected to spike in the fall and winter.
  • Getting vaccinated against these viruses can help us prevent a tripledemic.
  • Our COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots are being updated to target currently circulating strains of their respective virus.
  • The CDC recently approved the first RSV vaccines for older adults.
  • Each of these new and updated shots is expected to be available by fall.

All three vaccines will be especially important for older adults.

  • Older adults are especially vulnerable to severe illness, hospitalization, and death if infected with any of these viruses, which is why vaccines are so important for this population.
  • We don’t know yet who will be eligible for the updated COVID-19 vaccines, but they will most likely be available to older adults and immunocompromised individuals.
  • The annual flu shot is recommended for anyone ages 6 months and older.
  • The new RSV vaccines will only be available to adults ages 60 and older, but an RSV vaccine for pregnant people to protect newborns is going through the FDA approval process.
  • While RSV is most common among infants and young kids, it is also dangerous to older adults. The virus may lead to as many as 160,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths among adults ages 65 and older every year.

Talk to your doctor about what vaccines you should get and when you should get them.

  • For RSV vaccines, the CDC recommends older adults talk to their doctor to determine if they should get a shot.
  • While experts are still figuring out if people should get all three vaccines at the same time, we do know that the COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot work well when given together.
  • Everyone, especially older adults and immunocompromised individuals, should talk to their health care provider within the next couple of months about how to stay safe against COVID-19, the flu, and RSV this winter.
Last Updated: June 30, 2023

What do I need to know about updated vaccines for fall?

Updated COVID-19 vaccines are coming this fall.

  • The FDA decided that the updated COVID-19 vaccines for this fall should target a single strain: XBB.1.5.
  • The Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 is currently the predominant strain in the U.S.
  • Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have already started developing versions of their monovalent vaccines that target XBB.1.5.
  • Preliminary data from those companies shows that their updated shots produce strong immune responses against all XBB variants.

The goal is to start distributing the updated vaccines as early as September.

  • The updated vaccines are able to be developed within a few months because they involve tweaks to the original COVID-19 vaccine formulas.
  • Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax will still need to present safety and efficacy data to the FDA and CDC to receive authorization for their updated vaccines.
  • We don’t know yet who will be eligible to receive the updated vaccines, but booster shots are most important for older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and people with underlying medical conditions.

COVID-19’s behavior in the coming months will help us see if the virus is falling into a seasonal pattern.

  • So far, the COVID-19 virus has been unpredictable in the way that it mutates and spreads, making it difficult to produce vaccines that keep up with its changes.
  • There’s a chance that XBB.1.5 will no longer be the most common strain by the time the updated vaccines are ready to be distributed.
  • But the updated vaccines are expected to increase our protection against a wider range of strains, not just XBB.1.5.
  • For the long term, it’s important for the government to invest in vaccines that provide broader and more durable protection against COVID-19 virus variants and other potential coronaviruses.
Last Updated: June 28, 2023

How do I combat misinformation?

Inform your community about how vaccine opponents tend to spread misinformation.

  • Research shows that when people are aware of the motives and tactics of bad actors, they are more likely to identify misinformation and be wary of it.
  • Vaccine opponents often spread misinformation by cherry-picking data, taking experts’ quotes out of context, and making claims that elicit an emotional response.
  • Encourage community members to check the reputation of the author or source and whether there is robust evidence to back the claim before believing and/or resharing something that seems shocking.
  • Remind community members to pay extra attention when encountering emotionally charged or divisive topics.

Address people’s concerns around vaccines with empathy and patience.

  • Many people have low levels of trust in the government, health care system, and pharmaceutical industry for good reason. Poor public health communication around COVID-19 vaccines has also caused confusion and anxiety among the public
  • Some people have legitimate concerns around the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, and it’s important to address these questions with empathy and patience.
  • Deliver facts and data in an easy-to-understand way; correct misinformation with care rather than condescension; and build a trusted relationship with your community members.

Beware that vaccine opponents may be seeking attention for personal gain.

  • While many people spread vaccine misinformation unintentionally, the biggest anti-vaccine personalities can make a career out of promoting false claims and conspiracy theories.
  • For example, some high-profile vaccine opponents may be motivated to share controversial or false claims on the internet to gain followers, generate interest in their websites, or sell books or other products.
  • When thinking about who or what to trust, you can look to nonpartisan fact-checking sources like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.
  • If you are looking into claims on your own, be sure to follow evidence-based science, including peer-reviewed research and experts in the field who have no conflicts of interest.
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Last Updated: June 21, 2023

How can I improve my indoor air quality?

Improving indoor air can protect against COVID-19 and other health hazards.

  • Viruses like COVID-19 spread more easily indoors because there is less ventilation.
  • Pollutants like dust, wildfire smoke, and nitrogen dioxide from cooking can also build up indoors and become health hazards.
  • The CDC recommends replacing the air in a room at least five times an hour to reduce the amount of germs in a space.
  • There are two ways to improve indoor air quality: through ventilation (circulating outdoor air into a closed space) and through filtration (removing unwanted particles from the air).

Ventilation can help reduce the concentration of unwanted particles in the air.

  • Opening the windows is the simplest ventilation tool. You can get more consistent air flow by setting up a fan in front of the window, facing outward.
  • But opening the windows only works if the air outside is healthy. If the outdoor air quality is poor, keep the windows closed and opt for air filtration tools.
  • CO2 monitors can be used to understand how well-ventilated a space is. If CO2 levels exceed what’s considered normal for your space or 800 parts per million, you may need to increase ventilation or air cleaning.

Air filtration tools like Corsi-Rosenthal boxes and air purifiers can clean the air in your space and help protect against COVID-19.

  • The Corsi-Rosenthal box is an easy, cost-effective air filtration tool that you can build yourself as a temporary measure. It cleans the air in a room by trapping unwanted particles—including viruses, dust, and wildfire smoke—in its MERV filters.
  • Air purifiers with HEPA filters are the preferred filtration tool and should be used whenever possible. They work like Corsi-Rosenthal boxes but are typically better at trapping particles and have established standards for air quality.
  • Your HVAC system can also help clean the air in your home, but you may need to upgrade the filters to MERV-13 or HEPA so that the system is able to trap more particles.
  • Remember to replace the filters in the devices and systems you use every few months to ensure that they work properly.
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Last Updated: June 02, 2023

What is happening with federal COVID-19 funding?

COVID-19 is no longer an emergency, so funding around it is changing.

  • Now that the COVID-19 public health emergency is over, we can no longer rely on special funding for the virus. COVID-19 is now another health topic that needs to be budgeted for.
  • To prepare for these changes, agencies and organizations working on COVID-19 should aim to diversify their funding and potentially broaden the range of health topics that they cover.
  • Over the last few years, the federal government distributed $4.6 trillion in pandemic relief. The government is now clawing back $27 billion of unspent pandemic relief money as part of the debt-ceiling deal.

The clawback targets programs that have already ended or no longer need immediate funds.

  • The $27 billion being clawed back is a tiny fraction of the total $4.6 trillion distributed for pandemic relief. More than $4.2 trillion had already been spent as of January 2023.
  • Some of the returned money will come from programs that have ended or where there are no immediate demands.
  • Many of the funds are not directly related to combating COVID-19 but are rather unspent funds from pandemic-era programs around unemployment insurance, highway infrastructure, and the food system.
  • According to the White House, some of the clawed-back money will be used to support nondefense spending.

Billions will remain in place for investing in top COVID-19 priorities.

  • About $13 billion of unspent pandemic relief money will stay in place.
  • This includes more than $10 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to invest in next-generation vaccines, testing capacity, and long COVID research. HHS announced in May a $5 billion initiative called Project NextGen that will aim to develop better vaccines and treatments.
  • The CDC will keep around $1.5 billion for tracking COVID-19 variants and investing in vaccine safety and effectiveness programs.
  • Funds will also remain for programs such as veteran health benefits, the Indian Health Service, and low-income rental assistance.
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Last Updated: June 02, 2023

Is Paxlovid a safe treatment for COVID-19?

Paxlovid received full FDA approval for high-risk adults.

  • Paxlovid has been available for people ages 12 and older under an emergency use authorization (EUA) since December 2021.
  • Now, the antiviral pill is fully approved by the FDA to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in high-risk adults.
  • This decision means there is extensive data showing Paxlovid’s safety and effectiveness. The standards for full approval are stricter than those for an EUA.
  • The drug’s full approval will eventually give doctors more freedom in how they use it, such as the ability to prescribe it for long COVID symptoms or prescribe a longer course to prevent rebound.
  • Paxlovid is still available for kids ages 12 and older under an EUA.

Paxlovid is expected to remain free for everyone for at least the next few months.

  • U.S. pharmacies and health care providers still have millions of Paxlovid doses available. These doses will remain free for everyone.
  • Once this supply runs out, the cost of Paxlovid will fall on health insurers and patients.
  • In order to ensure access for uninsured people after the current supply runs out, the U.S. plans to cover Paxlovid’s costs through a “bridge access program” with pharmacies, though the details are still unclear.

The FDA confirms there are no major safety concerns around Paxlovid.

  • Paxlovid is very effective in lowering the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. One trial found that the drug reduced the risk by 86 percent in unvaccinated adults who had no prior infection.
  • Paxlovid is very safe, but it has the potential to react negatively with other medications, mainly immunosuppressants. As of January, the FDA recorded 271 reports of serious adverse events potentially related to drug interactions with Paxlovid.
  • Review the National Institutes of Health’s guidance on how to administer Paxlovid if you’re on certain medications with your health care provider.
Last Updated: May 26, 2023

How can I stay safe from COVID-19 during summer travel?

Get up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines before your trip.

  • Even though the majority of countries no longer require travelers to be vaccinated, getting up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines a couple of weeks before your trip is the best way to stay safe.
  • If you are age 6 or older, you now need one bivalent vaccine in order to be up to date, regardless of how many shots you received in the past.
  • People who are ages 65 and older or immunocompromised have the option to get an additional bivalent booster.
  • Younger kids still need to complete their entire primary series, but they will now get their remaining shots with bivalent vaccines.

Masking and testing continue to be good ways to reduce transmission.

  • Most airlines no longer require masks, and many countries have ended COVID-19 testing requirements. But these measures continue to be important to limit transmission.
  • Consider wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask in crowded, indoor areas, such as the plane, train station, or shopping mall, especially if you are high-risk or immunocompromised.
  • Testing before and after travel is key to reducing the virus’s spread, even if you don’t have symptoms.

Keep track of COVID-19 in the area you’re visiting.

  • Even if COVID-19 is in relatively low circulation where you live, this may not be the case in the country or city you’re traveling to.
  • Do some research before your travels and keep track of the COVID-19 situation in your travel destination.
  • Check if your health insurance covers care abroad and consider travel health insurance if you are at higher risk of falling ill.
  • Bring your health documents and extra medication in case you need to stay for longer than planned.
  • Think through the risks you’re willing to take, considering that you may have to seek care and isolate abroad if you catch COVID-19 on your travels.
Last Updated: May 22, 2023

Why is indoor air ventilation important?

The CDC set a first-ever target for how much ventilation a building should have to prevent virus spread.

  • The CDC’s Ventilation in Buildings guidance includes recommendations on how much ventilation is needed indoors.
  • The agency recommends at least 5 air changes per hour (ACH) of clean air to “help reduce the number of germs in the air.” In an op-ed about the news, Joseph G. Allen, a Harvard University professor, explained that the goal is to replace the air in a room five or more times an hour. To put it in context, he said a typical home has less than 0.5 ACH.
  • It’s the first time in history that the agency set a specific ventilation target to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses.

Improving ventilation indoors can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

  • The updated guidance is especially important as we enter a new stage of the pandemic following the end of the country’s COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • The new recommendation will help prevent the indoor spread of COVID-19, other airborne viruses like the flu, and hazards like wildfire smoke.
  • Ventilation mitigation strategies can help reduce the concentration of viral particles in the air. The lower the concentration, the less likely the viral particles can be inhaled into the lungs; reach the eyes, the mouth, and the nose; or accumulate on surfaces.

There are many easy ways to improve air circulation and cleanliness indoors.

  • The CDC’s guidance offers a detailed list of ways to improve air quality indoors.
  • Open windows (when the weather allows) to increase outdoor air flow.
  • Use a window fan to “exhaust room air to the outdoors."
  • To improve air cleanliness, the CDC suggests inspecting HVAC systems and using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
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Last Updated: May 10, 2023

How will COVID cases be tracked after the public health emergency ends?

The CDC will end its county-level COVID-19 tracking system.

  • The CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels program tracks the virus’s impact in each U.S. county based on a combination of hospitalization and case data.
  • This county-level tracking system is expected to end with the expiration of the national public health emergency on May 11, as the CDC will lose its authority to collect COVID-19 testing data from state and local health agencies.
  • According to a CDC spokesperson, “We are working to update the measure used to convey the risk of COVID-19 in communities based on data that will be available."
  • COVID-19 Community Levels is one of many tracking systems that have shut down over the last few months as the virus’s threat diminishes.

The CDC will rely more heavily on COVID-19 hospitalization data.

  • Going forward, the CDC will focus on tracking hospitalizations to monitor the spread of COVID-19, similar to the way the agency monitors the flu.
  • This makes sense since the government’s goal at this point is to limit severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
  • But by relying solely on hospitalization data, we run the risk of delaying our response to the next surge, as hospitalizations tend to be a lagging indicator of COVID-19 spread.

COVID-19 wastewater surveillance can fill the gap as an early indicator.

  • Wastewater surveillance can be a reliable source for early warnings about potential new COVID-19 variants or surges.
  • The CDC has its own COVID-19 wastewater surveillance system. Biobot Analytics also collects COVID-19 data from its network of wastewater treatment plants.
  • Overall, though, the country’s wastewater surveillance network remains patchy, as not all counties have a sewage testing site.
Last Updated: May 09, 2023

Who should get a bivalent vaccine?

Everyone ages 6 and older should get one bivalent vaccine, regardless of vaccination history.

  • The CDC is no longer recommending the original monovalent COVID-19 vaccines since we now have updated bivalent vaccines that target more recent variants.
  • This means that, for anyone who isn’t up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, the next step is to get a bivalent dose.
  • If you haven’t started or completed your primary series, you now need one bivalent vaccine to be up to date.
  • If you’ve completed your primary series but haven’t yet received a bivalent booster, get a bivalent booster to be up to date.
  • If you’ve already received a bivalent booster, you’re all set and well protected against severe disease.
  • Only people who are ages 65 and older or immunocompromised can get an additional bivalent booster.

Young kids still need to complete their primary series, but it will now be with bivalent vaccines.

  • Kids ages 6 months to 4 years are eligible for Pfizer’s three-dose primary series. Kids ages 6 months to 5 years are eligible for Moderna’s two-dose primary series.
  • If your kid hasn’t started or completed their primary series, they should get their remaining shots with bivalent vaccines to be up to date.
  • Only kids who completed their entire primary series with the original monovalent vaccines are eligible to receive one bivalent booster to be up to date.

Even though COVID-19 has been on the decline, it’s still important for everyone to be up to date.

  • Most people have some sort of immunity against COVID-19 at this point, but following the CDC’s updated vaccine guidance ensures that you receive the most robust and up-to-date protection.
  • The COVID-19 virus is still circulating and mutating, and the bivalent vaccines are the best tools we have to arm our immune systems with the necessary defenses.
  • Because immunity wanes over time, people who are ages 65 and older or immunocompromised are eligible for and should consider getting an additional bivalent booster this spring. The majority of COVID-19 deaths have been among people ages 65 and older and people with comorbidities.
Last Updated: April 24, 2023

Are people still dying from COVID?

Older adults and immunocompromised people can get a second bivalent booster this spring.

  • The FDA and CDC are allowing older adults and immunocompromised people to receive a second bivalent booster for added protection this spring.
  • People ages 65 and older are able to get an additional shot at least four months after their first bivalent booster, while immunocompromised people can get theirs at least two months after.
  • The protection that people with vulnerable immune systems gain from vaccines tends to fade faster, so an additional dose is more important for these populations.
  • More than 88 percent of COVID-19 deaths this year have been among people ages 65 and older. Nearly everyone who died of COVID-19 had another medical condition, such as another respiratory disease, high blood pressure, or Alzheimer’s.

COVID-19 is not like the flu yet.

  • So far, more than 30,000 people have died from COVID-19 in 2023. For about two-thirds of these deaths, the virus was the direct cause. For the remaining deaths, the virus was a contributing cause.
  • COVID-19 deaths since January are only a fraction of what we saw during the same period last year, when Omicron strains were spreading much more rapidly.
  • But compared to the number of deaths from the flu and pneumonia so far this year, the number of COVID-19 deaths is still significantly higher.
  • More people have died from COVID-19 than from diabetes or Alzheimer’s in 2023 when including deaths in which the virus was a contributing cause.

CDC confirms COVID-19 deaths are not being overcounted.

  • There has been a lot of misinformation around how the CDC counts COVID-19 deaths, but the agency confirmed early this year that it is not overcounting.
  • The CDC’s provisional COVID-19 death count only includes people who have COVID-19 listed on their death certificate, which means the virus directly caused or contributed to their death.
  • This method differs from how the CDC tracks COVID-19 hospitalization data, which includes everyone testing positive for COVID-19 regardless of their reason for hospital admission.
  • Some experts believe we have undercounted COVID-19 deaths. One indicator is that there have been more than 1.3 million excess deaths since February 2020, compared to 1.1 million COVID-19 deaths recorded by the CDC.
Last Updated: April 12, 2023

Will the FDA recommend a second bivalent booster?

The most vulnerable people may be able to get a second bivalent booster in a few weeks.

  • The FDA is expected to authorize a second bivalent booster for adults ages 65 and older and immunocompromised people at least four months after their first bivalent booster.
  • The protection that people with vulnerable immune systems gain from vaccines tends to fade faster, so an additional dose is more important for these populations.
  • The CDC will likely sign off on authorizing a second bivalent booster without explicitly recommending it, leaving the choice to patients and their health care providers.
  • The bivalent boosters would be free since the government still has a large stockpile of the vaccines.

A reformulated booster is expected to be available to everyone later this year.

  • By late summer or early fall, the government is expected to roll out a reformulated COVID-19 booster that targets newer, more relevant strains.
  • This booster will likely be available to the majority of the population and serve to protect people ahead of a potential winter surge.
  • The plan is to roll out a new booster every year, following a similar schedule to the annual flu shot.

The government is dedicating $5 billion to the development of new coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

  • We’ve experienced three coronavirus-driven outbreaks in the last two decades: SARS in 2002, MERS in 2012, and COVID-19 in 2020. It’s never too early to prepare for the next pandemic.
  • The government is launching Project Next Gen, a $5 billion program that aims to speed up development of new coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
  • The program plans to develop better monoclonal antibody treatments, nasal spray vaccines, and pan-coronavirus vaccines that protect against future COVID-19 variants as well as other coronaviruses.
Last Updated: April 12, 2023

Did the WHO change its recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines?

The World Health Organization (WHO) still recommends COVID-19 vaccines.

  • The new WHO guidance recommends that countries focus on vaccinating and boosting people at highest risk of severe disease, including older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and people with underlying health conditions.
  • The new guidance considers healthy kids to be a lower priority group since it is rare for them to experience severe disease. WHO says countries should prioritize getting healthy kids vaccinated against diseases that are more dangerous to them, such as rotavirus and measles.
  • WHO confirms that COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are safe and effective in children and teens and still supports COVID-19 vaccination for healthy kids if countries have the means.

WHO provides guidance for countries around the world, while the CDC issues guidance specific to the U.S.

  • Countries around the world have different financial resources and health care capacities. The new WHO guidance urges countries to think through their priorities at this stage of the pandemic.
  • WHO’s revised COVID-19 vaccine guidance is not a vote against vaccines. The pandemic has changed, so guidance evolves, too.
  • The WHO guidance is also not meant to directly inform the American public. The CDC’s guidance is specific to the U.S. and currently recommends COVID-19 vaccines and bivalent boosters for kids as young as 6 months.

All health organizations agree that COVID-19 boosters are most important for high-risk people.

  • Getting boosted is essential for older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and people with underlying health conditions because their immune systems are weaker.
  • Healthy young people don’t receive as much added benefit from COVID-19 boosters as high-risk people do, but staying up to date on vaccines is still the best way for anyone to be protected against the virus.
  • Kids are relatively unlikely to experience severe disease from COVID-19, but the virus is still a leading cause of death among children in the U.S.

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