CDC urges healthcare providers to increase respiratory vaccine coverage

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning about low vaccination rates and urged healthcare providers to increase immunization coverage for influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

According to the CDC, hospitalizations among all age groups increased by 200% for for influenza, 51% for COVID-19, and 60% for RSV in the past month. 

 Despite this concerning data, there were 7.4 million fewer influenza vaccine doses administered to adults in pharmacies and physician offices compared with the 2022–2023 influenza season.

The CDC warns that low vaccine rates and rising cases of respiratory disease could lead to more severe cases and put healthcare providers at capacity. 

COVID-19 continues to cause the most hospitalizations and deaths among respiratory illnesses today with about 15,000 hospitalizations and about 1,000 deaths every week, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency is also looking into reports of pneumonia outbreaks in children in two states, but Cohen said "there is no evidence" that they are due to anything unusual.

As for the flu season, seven states were reporting high levels of flu-like illnesses in early November. In a new CDC report on Friday, the agency said the tally was up to 11 states — mostly in the South and Southwest.

In the last month, RSV infections rose sharply in some parts of the country, nearly filling hospital emergency departments in Georgia, Texas and some other states. But "we think we’re near the peak of RSV season or will be in the next week or so," Cohen said.

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus is a common cause of mild coldlike symptoms but it can be dangerous for infants and older people.

Cohen was asked about pneumonia cases in children reported in Massachusetts and in Warren County, Ohio, near Cincinnati. There are a number of possible causes of the lung infection, and it can be a complication of COVID-19, flu, or RSV.

In Ohio, health officials have reported 145 cases since August and most of the children recovered at home. The illnesses were caused by a variety of common viruses and bacteria, officials said.

Massachusetts health officials said there’s been a modest increase in pneumonia in kids but that it is appropriate for the season.

China recently had a surge in respiratory illnesses which health officials there attributed to the flu and other customary causes.