The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an urgent alert late last week saying there’s an urgent need to increase vaccination rates.

The CDC said that low uptake of vaccines for COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and flu are to blame for putting Americans at risk for severe illness and hospitalization this winter. 

“Low vaccination rates, coupled with ongoing increases in national and international respiratory disease activity caused by multiple pathogens, including influenza viruses, SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19], and RSV, could lead to more severe disease and increased healthcare capacity strain in the coming weeks,” a CDC statement said. “In addition, a recent increase in cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) following SARS-CoV-2 infection in the United States has been reported.”

Compared to last year, about 7 million fewer adults were vaccinated this year. The vaccination rate is 36% for adults and children. In terms of the COVID-19 shot, 17% of adults (and 36% of them older adults) and 8% of children received their latest shots. About 16% of people over the age of 60 have received the RSV shot.

“We are seeing too few folks get vaccinated this season,” CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a briefing this week with the American Medical Association, CNN reported. “The voice of the physician matters so much in whether or not folks decide to get vaccinated.”

The CDC cited a survey in their advisory to explain why people aren’t getting vaccinated in large numbers. Survey data said that doctors aren’t recommending the shots enough, and there are concerns about side effects from vaccines, while others forget to get vaccines. 

“About 70 to 80% of American adults over the age of 18 have at least one condition that puts them at higher risk of a bad outcome,” Cohen said. “Getting vaccinated decreases your risk of hospitalization and death at every age, including 18 to 64, but it also decreases your risk of long COVID.”

Emergency department visits and hospitalizations for respiratory diseases are increasing among all groups of people, the CDC said.

In the past four weeks, hospitalizations increased 200% for flu, 51% for COVID and 60% for RSV, according to the CDC advisory. There have also been 30 reports of MIS-C, a rare complication in children infected with COVID that typically surfaces a month after infection.

“These tools that protect us — vaccines … testing and treatment and washing hands and ventilation and masks — all of these things are layers of protection that help make sure that we can weather this season,” Cohen said.