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Vineyard COVID spike has subsided, but now is the time to get vaccinated for winter viruses, providers say

Martha's Vineyard Hospital
Martha's Vineyard Hospital
Martha's Vineyard Hospital

A late-summer uptick in COVID-19 cases on Martha’s Vineyard has subsided, according to staff at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. But with colder weather upon us, and the start of the holiday season just weeks away, they recommend getting vaccinated for influenza and other viruses soon.

Right now, only one person is hospitalized at MVH with COVID, said Claire Seguin, chief nurse and vice president of operations.

“We've certainly seen a downtrend in emergency room visits specific to COVID-19,” she said. “In addition, when it goes through the community, it goes through our staff. And I think we are returning to baseline for staff, too.”

Rates of flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are also low, but they’re expected to increase toward the end of November, as people spend more time indoors and start to gather for the holidays, she said.

Dr. Ellen McMahon, chief of medicine at the Vineyard hospital, said she’s encouraging people to get the flu vaccine and an updated COVID-19 shot.

“Over time, the virus that causes COVID changes, and your protection from previous vaccines and prior infections also can decrease over time,” she said. “The updated vaccine can help protect against those most recent variants. Everyone ages six months and older is eligible for the newest COVID vaccine.”

Vaccines are also available for RSV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends RSV shots for individuals who are pregnant. The CDC says babies born to mothers who receive the vaccine at least two weeks before delivery will have protection from the virus, and most of those babies won’t need a subsequent RSV shot.

A prophylactic antibody injection for RSV is available for newborns and high-risk infants and toddlers.

For adults, the CDC says individuals aged 60 and over may decide to get the RSV vaccine based on a conversation with their health care provider to determine if it will be beneficial.

“The decision may be informed by a patient’s health status, their risk of severe RSV disease, … the health care provider’s clinical judgment, the patient’s preferences, the safety profile of the RSV vaccine products … and other factors,” the CDC says on its website.

The agency also says COVID-19 and flu vaccines may be given at the same time.

Last week, the New York Times reported on a possible, but inconclusive, link between slightly higher stroke risk in adults 65 and older and the dual administration of a COVID-19 vaccine and high-dose flu vaccine.

Asked about the news, McMahon said more tracking and monitoring is needed to validate the data and evaluate risk for the general population.

“That being said, the CDC has not changed recommendations at this time,” she said in an email. “For those that want to be extra cautious, older adults could stagger the timing of these vaccines, but again we do not have any guidance on how long to wait between the vaccines.”

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.