Now’s the time to take action to prevent respiratory problems

Flu, and COVID, season is upon us, the Kitsap Public Health District says in a news release.

Updated COVID-19 vaccines will be available this fall. The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have recommended update 2023-24 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna. The vaccines were designed to provide protection against variants of the COVID virus that are spreading now. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a vaccine.

It will take some time before the vaccines are available locally. The state Department of Health expects providers to begin offering the new vaccines over the next few weeks. Supplies could be limited at first, and not all providers who provided earlier COVID vaccines may offer the new ones. Providers have paused offering Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccinations until the new ones become available.

However, flu vaccines are widely available in Kitsap. Contact your healthcare provider or a pharmacy to set up an appointment. Flu vaccines are free for children younger than 19 and are fully covered by most insurance plans.

Last fall and winter, Kitsap experienced waves of respiratory illnesses such as flu, COVID, RSV and other viruses spread throughout the community.

A nationwide surge of respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, or RSV, led to a rise in cases among young children. Flu activity rebounded after two seasons with very little flu reported during the pandemic.

Looking ahead, public health officials are concerned that there could be an increase in COVID cases, with new variants of the virus circulating.

A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older. Flu vaccines help prevent you from getting the flu and can make your illness milder if you do get sick. Yearly vaccination is especially important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from flu, including young children, older adults, people who are pregnant, and people who have chronic health conditions.

Now is also a good time to stock up on over-the-counter COVID tests. Tests are available from many pharmacies and retailers. Healthcare providers can also provide testing. If you test positive for COVID-19, follow CDC guidelines and stay home for at least five days.

Have COVID tests that have expired? Expired ones are typically still OK to use as long as the control or “C” line still appears when you use the test.

If you need tests for your organization, contact Kitsap Public Health at or 360-728-2007.

RSV is a common respiratory illness with symptoms similar to colds. While RSV usually causes mild illness, it can cause severe illness, especially among infants and older adults. New immunization options are available to protect people at highest risk from RSV: Adults 60 and older can receive a single dose of RSV vaccine. And monoclonal antibody products are available to help protect children younger than 2 years old from RSV.

In addition to staying up to date on immunizations, you can take simple steps every day to avoid getting or spreading the viruses that cause common respiratory illnesses. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, including sharing cups and utensils. Clean frequently touched surfaces like mobile devices. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow. Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces.

It’s also important to take care of your overall health by eating healthy, staying active, getting sleep and managing stress.