The number of COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths in Ohio were up slightly last week as the fall flu and cold season approaches.
Statewide trends for COVID-19 showed an increase of 9,690 cases, up from the three-week average of 8,706 cases, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The actual number is most likely higher due to not every case being reported
There were 259 people hospitalized last week in Ohio, up from the three-week average of 198. There were 12 ICU admissions and 19 died from COVID-related symptoms.
Nationally, COVID hospitalizations increased by 8.7% earlier this month, and deaths increased by 4.5%, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved updated COVID-19 vaccines last week, as well as authorizing them for emergency use for some age groups.
“Vaccination remains critical to public health and continued protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
The updated mRNA vaccines are each approved for individuals 12 years of age and older and are authorized under emergency use for individuals 6 months through 11 years of age, the FDA said. The previous bivalent Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines are no longer authorized for use in the U.S.
The CDC is also recommending everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against serious illness this fall and winter.
“We have more tools than ever to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19,” said CDC director Dr. Mandy Cohen. “CDC is now recommending updated COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 6 months and older to better protect you and your loved ones.”
This is the first fall and winter virus season where vaccines are available for the three viruses responsible for most hospitalizations: COVID-19, RSV, and flu.
The latest COVID vaccines are expected to be available soon, so those looking to keep up with their vaccinations or to get vaccinated for the first time should check with their individual providers.
“The ordering and the shipping process is beginning, but each provider’s going to have their own supply chain and timing,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County.
ODH also expects updated COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be available to Ohioans, including to those without insurance.
“If you have medical insurance, and that includes Medicare or Medicaid, vaccines should be covered as a preventive health service, which means you likely will have no out-of-pocket costs,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, ODH director. “Those without insurance can take advantage of several programs to ensure they can continue to get free vaccines, as well.”
ODH will continue to offer vaccines free of charge to eligible children, including those who are uninsured, through the federal Vaccines for Children program. For uninsured adults, the CDC has created the Bridge Access Program, which will be in effect through the end of 2024. As part of that program, the CDC has contracted with CVS, Walgreens, and eTrue North pharmacies to allow them to continue offering free COVID-19 vaccinations to the uninsured.
Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County will have COVID and flu vaccines available soon, as well as the RSV immunization shots for newborns. The immunization shots for infants are not vaccines, but they are monoclonal antibodies that will provide passive immunity.
There are two RSV vaccines available for older adults, but those will not be available at the health department. Adults 60 and older need to consult a health care provider in order to determine if they should get an RSV vaccine.
“We will treat the COVID-19 vaccine like most other vaccines the health department carries,” said Nate Smith, communications coordinator for the Clark County Combined Health District. For those with insurance, the Local Public Health Services Collaborative will need to be an in-network provider for those individuals to receive vaccines through the health district. The health district will also offer vaccines to individuals without insurance through federal programs.
The Clark County Combined Health District will offer Moderna vaccines for clients who have private insurances, Smith said.
“We pre-ordered a limited number of doses based on the demand we were seeing,” Smith said. Those doses have already been allocated, but the health district will be ordering more doses.
The Warren County Health District also has a small number of flu vaccines, but once more is available, the department will be offering them to anyone 6 months and older, said Allison Combs, public information officer for the department. They are also planning on offering the updated COVID vaccines once they become available, and they are still in the planning stages with the RSV vaccines.
Each year, it’s estimated that between 60,000-160,000 older Americans are hospitalized and 6,000-10,000 die due to RSV infection, said Hiba Betka, CVS Health pharmacy leader.
“With this in mind, it’s especially important to protect at-risk populations from severe illness,” Betka said.
Public Health and health care providers also recommend getting the flu vaccine earlier rather than later.
“It’s important to get the flu shot every year because the body’s protection from the vaccine declines over time. Also, flu viruses can vary from year to year, so receiving a new vaccine formulation is required to provide optimal protection,” Betka said.
Who should get vaccinated?
Flu: Per the CDC, an annual flu vaccination is recommended for anyone six months of age and older, with rare exception.
COVID-19: Individuals 5 years of age and older regardless of previous vaccination are eligible to receive a single dose of an updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least two months since the last dose of any COVID-19 vaccine, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Individuals 6 months through 4 years of age who have previously been vaccinated against COVID-19 are eligible to receive one or two doses of an updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (timing and number of doses to administer depends on the previous COVID-19 vaccine received).
Unvaccinated individuals 6 months through 4 years of age are eligible to receive three doses of the updated authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine or two doses of the updated authorized Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may get additional doses of updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
RSV: In June 2023, the CDC recommended RSV vaccination for adults 60 or older using shared clinical decision-making with a pharmacist or health care provider.
Two monoclonal antibody products – nirsevimab (Beyfortus) and palivizumab (Synagis) – can help protect babies and young children from severe disease from an RSV infection.
Nirsevimab is recommended for all infants younger than 8 months who are born during – or entering – their first RSV season (typically fall through spring). A dose of nirsevimab is also recommended for some children between the ages of 8 and 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV and who are entering their second RSV season.
Palivizumab is limited to children under 24 months of age with certain conditions that place them at high risk for severe RSV disease. It must be given once a month during RSV season.
To find a COVID-19 vaccination location, visit vaccines.gov. Individuals can also check with their local pharmacy. To schedule an appointment through CVS, visit CVS.com or MinuteClinic.com. They can also call 1-800-SHOP-CVS or their local pharmacy for help with scheduling. Patients can schedule vaccinations through Walgreens by visiting Walgreens.com.