Messaging: Fall and Winter 2023 Immunizations

Use the following messages and social graphics to communicate and underscore key details about COVID-19, influenza, and RSV immunizations for respiratory illness prevention in your community. This guide is designed to communicate the information that is most relevant to the general public. We recommend adapting messaging for your local context. The guide is also available in Spanish.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Immunizations

On September 12, the CDC released updated COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for the fall and winter respiratory illness season.

Topline Messages

When will the new, updated COVID-19 vaccine be available? Is it safe to receive the updated COVID-19 vaccine with other vaccinations?

Updated COVID-19 vaccines, from both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, will be available by September 15, in most communities. According to the CDC, it is safe and acceptable to receive multiple immunizations, such as the COVID-19 and flu vaccines, during the same vaccination appointment. Check with your healthcare provider if you have questions about getting multiple vaccinations at one time.

What are the latest pediatric, adolescent, and adult COVID-19 immunization recommendations?  

  • Pediatric and adolescent guidance: Children over the age of 6 months should receive at least one updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as part of the recommended vaccination series. If your child has not previously received a COVID-19 vaccine, they should complete this year’s updated series as soon as possible. All child caregivers should speak with their respective healthcare provider(s) about vaccination by the end of October.
  • Adult guidance: To best protect against severe illness, adults should receive the updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. If you are not yet vaccinated, you should complete this year’s updated series as soon as possible. If you have been previously vaccinated, you should get an updated vaccine, at least two months after your last dose. All adults should aim for vaccination by the end of October.
  • Additional guidance for older adults and those with compromised immune systems: CDC recommends adults age 65 and older to speak with their healthcare provider about receiving a second dose. People with compromised immune systems should receive a second dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine, and potentially additional doses, for increased immune protection, with the approval of their healthcare provider. Please refer to our Answers to Tough Questions for specific vaccination guidance. 

How does COVID-19 immunization strengthen your community?

The updated vaccines were created to more closely target currently circulating strains of coronavirus. These vaccines significantly reduce the risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications and hospitalization, ultimately protecting against avoidable severe illness or death. 

The COVID-19 vaccines are effective at saving and protecting lives and health system dollars, while also reducing strains on healthcare resources and the workforce. Vaccination is especially important as we head into the fall and winter, a common time when COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases circulate in high volume across the country.

Supporting Messages

How and why have these guidelines changed?

Coronavirus is an ever-evolving health threat. CDC guidance and vaccine recommendations have evolved to reflect the most up-to-date understandings we have of the virus and illness prevention. In September 2023, CDC leaders came together to review new scientific evidence, discuss ways to address vaccine hesitancy, and simplify COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for the public. 

Will my insurance cover the new COVID-19 vaccine? What if I don’t have insurance?

Most people can still get a COVID-19 vaccine for free. 

For people with health insurance, most plans will cover COVID-19 vaccines at no cost, although you may need to use an approved, in-network pharmacy or healthcare facility. Check with your insurance provider if you have questions.

People who don’t have health insurance, or have health plans that do not cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccines, can get a free vaccine from their local health centers; state, local, tribal, or territorial health department; and pharmacies participating in the CDC’s Bridge Access Program

Children eligible for the Vaccines for Children Program may also receive the vaccine from a provider enrolled in that program.

Influenza (Flu) Immunizations

Topline Messages

What are the latest flu vaccination recommendations? 

Everyone age 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine dose each year, with limited exceptions. These vaccines are administered by certified health professionals and are available at local public health departments, pharmacies, urgent care clinics, and community centers. 

When will flu vaccines be available? Is it safe to receive the flu vaccine with other vaccinations?

  • The 2023-24 seasonal flu vaccine will be widely available by October.
  • According to the CDC, it is safe and effective to receive multiple immunizations, such as the flu and  COVID-19 vaccines, during the same vaccination appointment. 
  • Check with your healthcare provider if you have questions about getting multiple vaccinations at one time.

There are many approved flu vaccines and vaccine brands for use in the U.S. For the 2023-24 flu season, the CDC recommends that most people receive any approved, age-appropriate flu vaccine for immune protection. To learn what vaccine option may be best, speak with your healthcare provider. 

How does flu immunization strengthen your community?

Influenza (flu) is a potentially fatal, contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Flu vaccines prevent and diminish the severity of flu-related illness, reducing the need for clinical medical care and hospitalization. Flu vaccines are effective at saving and protecting lives and health system dollars. They reduce the potential for serious illness while also reducing strain on healthcare resources and the workforce. Vaccination is especially important in the fall and winter when respiratory diseases circulate in high volume across the country. On average, 26.8 million Americans become infected with the flu every year. These vaccines work by activating your body’s immune response, which can protect you from severe respiratory illness.

For those who are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications, flu vaccination is especially important. These groups include:

    • Adults 65 and older
    • Adults with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease
    • Pregnant people
    • Children younger than 5 years, but especially those younger than 2 years old

Supporting Messages

What has changed between last year’s and this year’s vaccination recommendations?

There have been two key changes:

  • Beginning with the 2023-24 season, all updated flu vaccines have been proven safe and effective for people with any form of an egg allergy. Former safety measures are no longer recommended for flu vaccination of people with an egg allergy. However, all flu vaccines should continue to be given in settings where allergic reactions can be recognized and treated quickly.
  • Since the 2022-23 flu season, the flu vaccines have been updated to include the strains that are most likely to circulate during this year’s flu season.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Immunizations

Topline Messages

What is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus. Infants and older adults are more likely than others to develop severe RSV and need hospitalization. 

When will these immunizations be available?

  • Infants and young children: Monoclonal antibody products, which are not vaccines but are given by injection, are CDC-approved and soon to be available to protect infants and young children from severe RSV. 
  • Older adults: Vaccines are CDC-approved and currently available to protect older adults from severe RSV. 
  • Pregnant people: This fall, pregnant people will be able to receive an immunization to protect themselves and their newborn(s) against severe respiratory illness and hospitalization. 

All of these RSV immunizations should be available by October 2023, or sooner. Both Pfizer and GSK will be distributing updated doses for their respective age groups and priority populations.

What are the latest RSV immunization recommendations? 

Ideally, RSV immunizations should be received before or during the early fall, between September and October. This is to ensure the immune system has time to prepare for possible exposure before possible transmission peaks during the late fall and winter months.

  • Pediatric guidance: Most infants younger than 8 months, born during or entering their first RSV season, should receive one dose of the Sanofi and AstraZeneca monoclonal antibody treatment, nirsevimab (Beyfortus), as soon as possible. Young children aged 8–19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease and entering their second RSV season are also recommended to receive one dose of nirsevimab.
  • Older adult guidance: Adults ages 60 and older can receive their Abrysvo (Pfizer) or Arexvy (GSK) vaccine dose after speaking with their healthcare provider about personal health risks.

Is it acceptable to receive the RSV vaccine with other vaccinations?

You should talk to your healthcare provider about getting the RSV vaccine with other vaccines. 

How does RSV immunization strengthen your community?

These new vaccines offer life-saving respiratory protection against negative health outcomes from RSV. These immunizations significantly reduce the risk of developing severe respiratory complications and hospitalization, ultimately protecting against avoidable illness or death. 

RSV can also cause other serious infections, such as bronchiolitis, which causes lung inflammation, and pneumonia, which is a severe lung infection. RSV is the most common cause of these serious infections in children younger than 1 year of age.

People at highest risk for severe RSV disease include:

  • Premature infants
  • Young children with congenital (from birth) heart or chronic lung disease
  • Young children with compromised (weakened) immune systems due to a medical condition or medical treatment
  • Children with neuromuscular disorders
  • Adults with compromised immune systems from illness or medications
  • Older adults, especially those with underlying heart or lung disease

Communications Considerations

Here are some questions to consider when you are communicating about the this year’s respiratory illness season:

  • Who is your audience? The more specific you can get about your audience, the more effective you can be in providing useful, relevant information.
    • Consider:
      • Do I know what type of insurance my audience has? 
      • Am I specifically targeting people with public, private, or no insurance?
      • Am I communicating with individuals or organizations? If an organization, what kind of organization—school, employer, business, health care facility, etc.?
  • What do you want your audience to do with this information?
    • Examples:
      • I want my community to follow specific guidance.
      • I want constituents to reach out to their insurer if they have questions about specific coverage.
      • I want community members to share this message with friends or family.
      • I want trusted messengers to help amplify this information.
  • What is your local context?
    • Consider: 
      • Local or state policies or active emergency declarations that will directly impact your community.
      • Your county’s COVID-19 Hospital Admission Level.
      • Your county’s historical and current epidemiological reports of COVID-19, flu, and RSV transmission.

Read our Plain Language for Public Health Guide for more tips for effective, relevant, and accessible communications.

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