With Thanksgiving fast approaching, state health officials are encouraging residents to get a COVID booster and flu shot before the holidays.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also recommends getting the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine — especially expectant mothers, newborns, and those 60-plus.
“Getting vaccinated now will maximize protection against these respiratory viruses,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein. “We want Massachusetts residents to have a safe, healthy, and fun holiday season, and part of that is getting vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you.”
The seasonal flu vaccine and updated COVID booster both take up to two weeks to provide full protection.
This time of year, when family and friends gather to celebrate the holidays, COVID, flu and RSV are the most likely causes of severe disease resulting in hospitalization and sometimes death.
In the past week, 13% of Bay State hospital admissions were due to acute respiratory disease.
The lack of vaccine participation in this state to date concerns health officials, who fear complacency has overtaken caution.
The latest data from the health department shows that just 9% of residents have received the shot since the latest COVID boosters started to roll out in mid-September.
A greater share, 21%, have received a flu vaccine, but that’s still tracking behind previous years, according to public health officials.
“We are dramatically lower in our COVID vaccination rates than we have been in prior years,” Goldstein recently told hospital leaders. “And RSV vaccination — a new vaccine — is really lagging where we had expected it to be.”
Similar to the flu vaccine, COVID doses were reformulated this fall to better match the current strains of the virus.
Many chain pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens administer these vaccines. After a rocky rollout, CVS officials, for example, now say they are “well positioned” to meet patient demand. Call or visit their websites to find one in your local area. Your primary-care physician’s office or local health department may also be a vaccination resource.
COVID vaccine location information is also available at mass.gov/CovidVaccine. Appointments can also be made for in-home COVID and flu vaccinations by going to mass.gov/VaccinesAtHome or calling 833-983-0485.
DPH will be holding COVID and flu clinics in many communities and at upcoming cultural events. A listing of these community clinics that are accepting appointments and, in some locations, walk-ins – updated weekly – can be found at mass.gov/MobileVax.
While their ability to prevent these potentially life-threatening diseases remains a subject of much debate, an ounce of their protection might still be worth a pound of cure.
Beware of deer in the headlights
It’s peak season again for deer crashes in the Bay State.
Most deer collisions in Massachusetts happen in the last three months of the year, according to AAA Northeast, with November consistently being the top month for incidents reported to the Massachusetts Environmental Police.
These crashes peak during autumn’s mating season, which means males are on the prowl at dusk and dawn, coinciding with commuting traffic.
It’s a recipe for potentially serious crashes, particularly because visibility decreases in the fall, when sunrises get later and sunsets earlier.
In 2021, motor-vehicle accidents involving deer soared to an all-time high from October through December.
In that three-month span, the state recorded 1,656 deer accidents, the highest number since 2002, according to a AAA Northeast analysis of crash data available from the state’s IMPACT crash portal.
Last year, deer collisions in the October-December timeframe jumped to 1,806. That’s equivalent to a deer crash every 74 minutes.
While deer accidents can occur anywhere, the most accident-prone towns from October to December last year were all in the southeast past of the state: Middleboro (48); Taunton (39); Westport (29); Swansea (28); Rehoboth (22); East Bridgewater/Seekonk (tied at 20); Freetown (19); and Acushnet/Plymouth/Wareham (tied at 18).
Here’s a sampling of AAA’s driver-safety tips:
• Scan the shoulders of the road in front of you. Deer may dash out from the shoulder or wooded areas next to the road.
• Keep to the speed limit. It will give you more time to respond to unexpected wildlife movements.
• Be careful rounding curves and climbing hills, where visibility is limited.
• If you spy one deer, look for others. Deer rarely travel alone.
• If a collision is unavoidable, apply the brakes firmly and try to remain in your lane and avoid other vehicles. Swerving sharply can cause an even more serious crash.
• If a crash occurs, move the vehicle to a safe location if possible and report the incident to the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075.
• Contact your insurance company to report any damage to your car. Take photos of the damage if you can do so safely. Damage to the car from animal crashes generally falls under a driver’s comprehensive coverage.
While accidents can inadvertently help cull the state’s soaring deer population, it’s a dangerous way to accomplish that goal.
For drivers and deer alike.