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Americans are urged to get vaccinated against 3 major respiratory viruses

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

As winter approaches, public health authorities are worried that too few Americans are planning to get vaccinated against three major respiratory viruses. That's according to a new report released yesterday. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has more.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: For years, everyone could get a flu shot every fall. And the COVID vaccines have helped protect millions during the pandemic. Now, for the first time, anyone age 60 and older can also get vaccinated against RSV, which can also be life threatening. So CDC Director Mandy Cohen is urging everyone who's eligible to take advantage of this trio of vaccines.

MANDY COHEN: For the first time in history, we have vaccines against all three of these major viruses that can protect us from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

STEIN: But a new survey finds that a lot of people aren't planning to get the shots. The survey of 1,000 adults found only about half of those ages 18 to 64 want a flu shot. Only 40% of adults are planning to get an updated COVID vaccine. And only 40% of eligible adults say they'll get the RSV jab. Patsy Stinchfield heads the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, which conducted the survey.

PATSY STINCHFIELD: Many U.S. adults are underestimating the seriousness of flu, COVID-19 and RSV.

STEIN: Which are especially dangerous for older people and those with other health problems. Meanwhile, the survey found many people overestimate the risks associated with the vaccines, even though they are very safe and effective. The CDC says the current COVID wave that started in July may be cresting, but another wave is expected this winter. RSV is already on the rise again, and flu season is coming. About 2 million people have already rolled up their sleeves for COVID shots. And the agency is working to try to help resolve problems with insurance and supply that have frustrated others who do want to get vaccinated. Rob Stein, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.