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Seasonal vaccinations rates low in Wisconsin as RSV and Flu hospitalizations start to rise


Friends and families will be gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday in less than a week.

With gatherings, comes an increased risk for spreading respiratory illnesses.

Cases of the Flu, COVID-19, and RSV are all on the rise.

“Our indicators where we have virological evidence as well and that has risen and practically doubled over the past few weeks both for influenza and for RSV. Our number of hospitalizations have increased significantly and doubled also in over the past week for both RSP and flu,” said Tom Haupt is with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Haupt is urging people to get vaccinated.

For the first time there is a vaccine for RSV. The respiratory illness can be dangerous for the very young and very older.

The vaccine can help reduce the severity of cases.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends pregnant people, parents of children under 19 months, and adults over 60 should talk to their doctor about RSV vaccines.

But Haupt warns the RSV vaccine, nirsevimab, is hard to come by.

“The nirsevimab situation is a shortage, not only in Wisconsin, but nationwide. It's very frustrating for us. We were hoping by now to have higher numbers of children who had shots for nirsevimab, but that's not going to happen,” he said.

The updated COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccines are readily available throughout the state.

As of Thursday evening, DHS data shows about 24% of Wisconsinites have gotten the flu vaccine this year and just 9% percent have gotten the updated COVID shot.

“[It] is disappointing, to be honest with you. I mean, we've been averaging close to 40% total. Obviously, this is why we really felt it very important to get the message out to your viewers and your listeners that influenza season, RSV season are all upon us. It's not too late to get those vaccines at this particular point, but we really are hoping for an uptick,” said Haupt.

The flu and COVID vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

Haupt also stresses that if you’re feeling sick, stay home.

“You need to stay away from people who are at high risk. These are young children, and these are also older adults who are at the highest risk, in addition to people who may have some underlying illnesses. Sometimes you don't even know if they have underlying illnesses. So being smart, if you're not feeling well stay home and give yourself a chance to heal,” he said.

Haupt says early indications show this flu season might mimic pre-pandemic times. Meaning the peak in illness will likely come in January after the holiday season.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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