Rhode Islanders Urged to Get Vaccinated Before Seasonal Travel and Gatherings 

Holiday cheer is in the air. So are respiratory viruses. 


The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is reminding anyone who will be traveling for the holidays or plans to attend holiday gatherings to get vaccinated now against common respiratory viruses. Large gatherings, crowded travel, and more time indoors can mean more viruses spreading this time of year. 


Everyone older than six months of age should get a flu shot every year. The 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine is also recommended for everyone older than six months of age. It can take up to two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide people with protection against viruses like COVID-19 and the flu. Vaccination is particularly important for older adults and people with underlying health issues, including weakened immune systems, diabetes, obesity, asthma, cancer, and heart or lung disease. 


“Holiday cheer is in the air. Unfortunately, so are respiratory viruses,” said Interim Director of Health Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH.If you plan to see people for New Year’s or attend a holiday party with family, friends, or colleagues this month, now is the best time to get vaccinated, if you have not been vaccinated already. In addition, if you are sick, stay home to avoid putting others at risk. This is particularly true if you were planning to see any older adults or people with underlying health issues.”  


Flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine are available throughout Rhode Island at pharmacies, the offices of many primary care providers, and community health centers. These vaccines are also available at community clinics. These clinics are being held in the late afternoon and evening at schools and are open to the entire community. To register, go to covid.ri.gov/vaccination and click “Community Clinic Registration.” People can register for either COVID-19 vaccine (available at these clinics for people ages 5 and older), flu vaccine (available at these clinics for people ages 3 and older), or both vaccines. It is safe to receive both vaccines at the same visit. There is no insurance requirement and no cost for vaccination. People can get the 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine even if they have not received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past. 


In addition to flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine, many people are eligible for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine, including pregnant people, infants under eight months, eligible children 8-19 months at increased risk, and many people 60 and older. Talk to your healthcare provider about RSV vaccination if you are in one of these groups. 


Additional information about preventing respiratory viruses  

  • Stay home when you are sick. Stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone. Temperature should be measured without the use of fever-reducing medicines (medicines that contain ibuprofen or acetaminophen). Avoid contact with others, especially older adults and people with underlying health conditions, if you are sick.   
  • Wash your hands regularly throughout the day using soap for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean your hands. Hand washing is especially important after touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; after leaving a public place; after touching objects or surfaces that may be frequently touched, such as door handles, light switches, and tables.   
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands. Always wash your hands as soon as you can after you cough or sneeze.  
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have any of the classic symptoms, like fever or chills, a runny nose, a cough, achiness, or loss of taste or smell. If you or someone you live with tests positive for COVID-19, there are steps you can take to prevent spreading the virus to others and protect yourself from getting very sick. The Isolation Calculator can help you determine how long you should stay home and isolate away from others. Learn more about doctor-recommended treatments for COVID-19 that can keep you from getting sicker and being hospitalized. 


    For additional information about preventing respiratory viruses can be found at: health.ri.gov/respiratoryviruses