A nurse holds a box of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines (2021). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday warned healthcare providers of an "urgent need" to increase vaccination rates against COVID-19, as well as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
A nurse holds a box of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines (2021). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday warned healthcare providers of an “urgent need” to increase vaccination rates against COVID-19, as well as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 14 (UPI) — Healthcare providers throughout the United States are in for a rough winter if immunization rates against COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses do not increase, the CDC warns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday warned healthcare providers of an “urgent need” to increase vaccination rates against COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

According to the CDC, low vaccination rates and an ongoing increase of national and international cases could lead to an increased strain on the capacity of healthcare organizations in the coming weeks.

In the past four weeks, hospitalizations among all age groups increased 200% for influenza, 51% for COVID-19 and 60% for RSV, according to the CDC.

“Influenza, COVID-19 and RSV can result in severe disease, especially among unvaccinated persons,” the organization said in a statement. “Infants, older adults, pregnant people and people with certain underlying medical conditions remain at increased risk of severe COVID-19 and influenza disease. Infants and older adults remain at highest risk of severe RSV disease; it is the leading cause of infant hospitalization in the United States.”

COVID-19 vaccination rates are low this winter, with the CDC reporting 17.2% of adults having received the latest booster, along with 7.7% of children under 18 and 9.6% of pregnant people, as of Dec. 2.

Seasonal flu vaccination coverage is low across all age groups as well. As ofNov. 2 the CDC reported 7.4 million fewer doses administered to adults compared to the same time last year.

The CDC said key reasons for low vaccine uptake this year include lack of provider recommendation, concerns about unknown side effects, occurrences of mild side effects and lack of time or forgetting to get vaccinated.

The organization urged health care providers to administer influenza, COVID-19, and RSV immunizations now to patients, if recommended, and to use all available tools to increase immunization rates.

The CDC also recommended people take everyday preventive measures such as washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, wearing a mask, and staying home when sick.

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