Get Your Vaccines to Stay Healthy During Virus Season

Senior holding up shirt sleeve to show bandaid after vaccination

Staying up to date on your vaccines is the best way to lower your risk of viral respiratory disease this fall and winter.

Older adults are at a higher risk for serious complications of infection and generally experience higher rates of death and hospitalization. This is, in part, because of changes in immune defenses with increasing age.

There are three vaccines the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for protection against the three viruses responsible for most hospitalizations:

  • The flu shot
  • The new COVID-19 vaccine
  • The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine


Who should get a flu shot?
The flu shot is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, but according to the CDC, the groups at the highest risk and in greatest need of the flu shot are:

  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • People of any age with underlying medical conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes)

The flu virus is constantly changing, so flu vaccines are updated each year. This means, for the best protection, you should get a flu shot every year — ideally in September or October, but if you didn’t get a flu shot in the fall it’s still worth getting in January or February to avoid the peak of the flu season.

There are multiple flu vaccinations. If you are over 65, you should ask for the one the CDC recommends for your age group. An annual flu shot is covered at no cost to Tufts Health Plan members.


Who should get the new COVID-19 vaccines? 
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are again on the rise as of December. There are new variants not covered by older vaccines. If you are over 65 or are immunocompromised, and you have not received a prior COVID-19 vaccine or had a COVID-19 infection in the past 2 months, this vaccine is recommended.

You can schedule your COVID-19 vaccine during the same visit as your flu shot. The COVID-19 vaccine is covered at no cost to Tufts Health Plan members.


Who should get the new RSV vaccine?
Respiratory syncytial virus is an upper respiratory viral infection that poses more risk to adults 60 and older, and the CDC recommends adults over 60 speak with their health care provider about whether RSV vaccination is appropriate.

The RSV vaccine is covered at no cost to Tufts Health Plan members enrolled in a plan that includes prescription drug coverage. If your plan does not include prescription drug coverage, you are responsible for any required copayments.


Where can you get your flu shot or vaccine?
Here are just some ways you can get your recommended shots:

  • Call your physician’s office to schedule an appointment
  • Schedule an appointment at a participating pharmacy, such as a local independent pharmacy or a larger chain like CVS, Walgreens, or Walmart
  • Look for town or school flu shot clinics (contact your city or town administrator for more information)

If you get a vaccine at a clinic, remember to let your primary care provider (PCP) know.

Please note: Some members have experienced difficulty getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Rest assured, as a Tufts Health Plan member you are covered for the COVID-19 and flu vaccine. You are also covered for the RSV vaccine if your plan includes Part D prescription drug coverage. If the pharmacy says you have to pay out of pocket, you can get reimbursed by filling out and submitting the Part D Prescription Reimbursement Form. Alternatively, you can also try any contracting pharmacy. To check if a pharmacy is in network, use the Pharmacy Directory that applies to your plan. You can access the pharmacy directory on our documents page. If you have any questions, or need assistance call Member Services at 1-800-701-9000 (HMO)/1-866-623-0172 (PPO) (TTY: 711).


How do vaccines work?
Vaccines help your body learn to defend itself from disease, without the danger of a full-blown infection.

Per the CDC, vaccines work by imitating an infection. Vaccines contain an antigen, which is a substance that mimics a small piece of the virus, that causes your body’s immune system to produce antibodies. After your body fights off the antigen, the antibodies remain in your body in smaller numbers, ready to fight off future infection.

Though vaccinated individuals can still get infected, you’re far less likely to die or become seriously ill if you’re vaccinated, compared with someone whose immune system is unprepared, according to the CDC.


What else can you do to avoid getting sick?
In addition to the getting your recommended vaccinations, you can reduce your risk of infection by practicing these habits:

  • Avoid close contact with others who are sick
  • Wash your hands frequently (or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available)
  • Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially when someone is ill
  • Practice other healthy habits like sleeping enough, eating nutritious food, staying physically active, and managing your stress

For the most up-to-date information on the flu, COVID-19, and RSV vaccines, please visit the CDC’s website at

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