Dr. Joshua Crabtree is Sanford's Sioux Falls Clinic vice president. He sat down with Sioux Falls Simplified to talk about the upcoming cold and flu shots, a new COVID-19 vaccine and a classic reminder that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Answers are edited for length and clarity.
We're all about simplicity here. If you could give your advice for cold and flu season in 10 words or fewer, what would it be?
I can do it in one word: Prevention.
Is there anything in particular you’re watching as we get into colder months in terms of trends regarding the flu, covid-19, etc.? Is there like a Farmer’s Almanac for sickness?
I wish. Really what we rely on from a system standpoint and healthcare provider standpoint, is we look to some of those larger organizations that do some of that monitoring for us.
- The World Health Organization monitors the influenza season in the southern hemisphere in the off-season for. The WHO is monitoring the strains, how severe is the flu season, and then that really informs how prepared we should be and then also what kinds of strains that we put in our vaccine going forward.
It seems like there’s been increasing vaccine hesitancy, or at least folks are more vocal about it – have you seen an impact in recent years in terms of flu shot numbers?
I would say that a majority of people do get a flu shot every year.
- One thing I can tell you is that because of the vocal crowd of people speaking out with vaccine hesitancy, it has created an environment where there’s been a need for more education around vaccines, their efficacy, the history around vaccination and why it has been so successful.
- Where we didn't used to, as clinicians, have to provide as much education, I think we have to provide that education a little bit more now.
What should people know about getting a flu shot?
It is available now, and we are providing flu shots in our clinics.
One difference from past years – we used to have a trivalent influenza vaccine, and now we have a quadrivalent influenza vaccine that covers four different strains.
- It broadens the coverage a little bit – with coverage for two different influenza A strains and two different influenza B strains.
What should people know about the latest COVID-19 vaccine?
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) literally just approved an updated monovalent COVID-19 vaccine. We're calling it the 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine, and it'll protect against the omicron XBB 1.5 variant.
- While we hear about other variants floating around, it’s expected that this particular vaccine is going to provide good cross-protection for those other variants that are floating around.
It's recommended that anyone six months or older get an updated monovalent vaccine, as long as it's been at least two months since their last (COVID-19) vaccine.
I’ve also heard a bit about a new RSV vaccine that’s in development – is that something that parents can watch for at Sanford this season? What’s the next step there?
They should watch for it at Sanford.
We have looked to the CDC throughout the pandemic and before the pandemic. We have trusted the CDC with giving us our one source of truth, and the CDC has not formally approved at least part of the RSV vaccination series.
- But what I expect they’re waiting for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to make their formal recommendations, and then the CDC will put their stamp of approval on it.
Besides vaccines, what can folks do to stay healthy this season?
Do whatever you can to prevent illness.
- If you are ill, stay away from work, and try not to infect others. If you are not ill make sure you’re washing your hands and avoiding those that are ill if possible.
- Make sure you're getting your vaccinations up-to-speed, sooner rather than later so you have adequate coverage through that whole respiratory virus season.
I also think there are opportunities to avoid getting ill by taking care of ourselves and keeping healthy in other ways – food, exercise, keeping stress levels low. That can go along way in preventing you from getting run down.