Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is urging Islanders to get immunized against respiratory diseases ahead of the holiday season.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Nov. 1, hospital staff members provided an update on what the community can do to keep themselves safe from respiratory diseases.
Martha’s Vineyard Hospital chief nurse and vice president of operations Claire Seguin said winter is when the Vineyard experiences a heavier circulation of respiratory viruses in the community, such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), COVID-19, and others like rhinovirus.
“Making predictions about when they’ll start circulating or how severe the season will be is very challenging,” Seguin said. “We don’t have a crystal ball.”
Last year, the Vineyard went through what the hospital described as a “tri-demic” of flu, RSV, and COVID. In particular, the Island had a “very early and severe” RSV season, which Seguin said particularly impacted children. Usually, the Vineyard sees an uptick starting in November, especially after Thanksgiving, according to Seguin.
Flu and RSV activity is currently low, according to Seguin. Additionally, Seguin said the Island has seen a decrease in COVID since a summer uptick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is anticipating a similar level of hospitalizations from respiratory illnesses as last year. The hospital saw a total of 139 cases between October 2022 and September 2023. The hospital has also seen a downtrend in emergency room visits caused by COVID.
So far, the hospital has administered around 2,500 flu vaccines, 1,104 COVID vaccines, and some RSV vaccines, according to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital family medicine Doctor Ellen McMahon.
“Vaccination remains a critical tool to protect against severe disease,” McMahon said, and encouraged people to get both the flu vaccine and an updated COVID vaccine. McMahon said flu shots and updated COVID vaccines can be received with a short time between doses, and even on the same day.
Additionally, McMahon said there are new RSV vaccines available, including one for adults 60 years and older, and for pregnant mothers in the final weeks before delivery. Also, there is a prophylactic immunization treatment available for newborns, and immunocompromised children who are older infants and toddlers.
Seguin said the hospital is “really encouraging” pregnant mothers to get the new vaccine because the protection also stays with the baby after birth, so a separate injection would not be needed.
Patients of the hospital can go to Patient Gateway to schedule an appointment, or contact the call center at 508-684-4500. Vaccines are also available through retail pharmacies and community clinics. The hospital has also been doing weekly vaccine clinics based on need, but Seguin recommended calling ahead to check eligibility.