AUSTIN (KXAN) — After officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Austin Public Health predicted a possible late summer wave of new COVID-19 cases last week, one Austin pharmacy is beginning preparations for any early respiratory illness spikes.
Staff with the Austin-based Tarrytown Pharmacy said they are already seeing plenty of people coming in and seeking over-the-counter cough and cold medicine or complaining of respiratory symptoms. While that doesn’t necessarily mean those symptoms are the result of a COVID-19 case, it does support the CDC and APH’s concerns that more respiratory cases are emerging.
Part of that emergence could come down to the extreme, extensive heat wave Austin has been experiencing this summer, said Rannon Ching, president and chief pharmacy officer at Tarrytown Pharmacy.
“It’s so hot outside that people are actually crowding indoors and they’re going to malls, they’re going to the library, and things like that where a lot of people are,” he said. “So we’re actually starting to see kind of this winter-type of culmination of people transmitting infections in the summertime, just because it’s so hot that people aren’t outside as much.”
In a Tuesday release, APH said the health department is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 detected in city wastewater. However, following the end of the COVID-19 National Public Health Emergency declaration on May 11, Ching said it will be more difficult to accurately track the sheer volume of COVID-19 cases in the area.
“A lot of it is anecdotal. A lot of it is stories being passed on,” he said. “We don’t have as sophisticated reporting anymore now that people have at-home tests and they’re just testing at home or things like that. So when we start hearing about these waves, there’s really no good way for us to see how big of an impact it’s making.”
With that in mind, he said it’s critical for people to find and use available protections — whether those are vaccines, masks or social distancing when sick — to protect themselves in the coming months.
New RSV vaccine rolling out this year
One of those protections available is a new respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) shot, currently offered to those ages 60 and older. Ching recommended those eligible to get the vaccine as soon as possible to help extend their immunity against the respiratory illness, which can develop into more severe complications like pneumonia.
Currently, only older adults can receive the vaccine. Research is ongoing to expand authorizations for pregnant moms in their third trimester, but that has yet to be approved.
Tarrytown Pharmacy received its first shipments of the RSV vaccine this week, with hopes to have all the insurance coverage sorted through by late this week or early next week before beginning marketing the shot to patients.
When’s the best time to get a COVID, flu shot?
While those eligible for the RSV shot can begin getting those in the coming days, Ching said it isn’t advised to get the flu or COVID-19 shot just yet. The reason? You want to extend immunity through as much of the wintertime as possible, he said.
The start of September is typically pharmacists’ rule of thumb to begin administering flu shots, with September and October key months for people to receive their yearly dose.
Additionally, a new COVID vaccine is coming out this fall with a new, monovalent strain to more closely match the specific strain circulating right now.
“It’s kind of like a holistic approach, a lot of the different things that we can use [to protect ourselves],” he said. “My big kind of advice is just, to know that those illnesses are out there and we just need to do our best and whatever people comfortable with doing to have that protection.”