Article by Janelle Massaro, Consultant Pharmacist at Remedi SeniorCare

The landscape of the vaccine market has undergone significant shifts in recent years, marked by the emergence of new vaccines, evolving vaccine schedules, and innovative mechanisms of action. Included in these are the COVID, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), and Shingles vaccines.

COVID Vaccines

Among these changes, COVID vaccines have gained considerable attention, continually adapting to address shifting virus strains and vaccination schedules. Notably, the 2023-2024 monovalent mRNA vaccine, Spikevax, represents the latest vaccine, with recent CDC recommendations emphasizing the importance of a second dose for individuals aged 65 and older. This current vaccine is now billable under Medicare Part B plans. As seen in the past, we should expect this vaccine to continually evolve as new research and data are collected.

RSV Vaccines

Alongside COVID, the new RSV vaccines, Arexvy and Abrysvo, have gained prominence,
particularly given the virus’s potential severity in individuals with underlying health conditions. RSV presents with symptoms similar to other respiratory infections including cough, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, headache, fatigue, and fever. RSV is most common during flu season from fall to spring, peaking in winter. Recommended as a one-time dose, billed to Medicare Part D, for those aged 60 and older, these vaccines offer protection against RSV, and are recommended to be given prior to RSV season, although they may be given at any time due to recent pandemic. As a newer vaccine, we should expect to see more data from on-going trials on the long-term efficacy of this vaccine.

Shingles Vaccines

Addressing another concern, Shingrix has emerged as the primary defense against shingles, offering a two-dose regimen, with the second dose given at least 2 to 6 months after the initial dose, for individuals 50 and older or immunocompromised individuals 18 years and older. Shingrix is recommended in those with prior infection or with previous vaccination with Zostavax, which is no longer on the market. With shingles presenting long-term complications after acute infection, vaccination remains imperative for eligible individuals to mitigate the severity of infection and the risk of recurrence.

The Importance of Immunizations

In the broader context, vaccines serve as vital tools in building immunity and preventing severe illness, particularly among the elderly, a population susceptible to various viruses. As research continues to develop, maintaining a proactive approach to immunization remains paramount in safeguarding public health.

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