Flu vaccine to be offered later this year

ALBANY — Officials with the Southwest Public Health District say, due to a different type of vaccine being offered this year, that flu shots will be available a little later this season.

Becky Snow, immunization coordinator for the health district, said the trivalent vaccine — which protects against two strains of Influenza A and one strain of Influenza B — has been what the district’s 14 county health departments have offered in the past. This year, the district will be switching to a quadrivalent vaccine — which protects against two strains each of Influenza A and Influenza B.

Due to the time that it will take to ship the vaccine, Snow said the health district is looking to start offering it on or after Oct. 1 rather than in early September, which is when it has been available in recent years.

“Normally we would start offering it in September, but there is a delay due to the shipment of the vaccine,” she said. “It is an improvement to the vaccine we have offered before. Some places are offering trivalent and quadrivalent, but we wanted strictly quadrivalent to offer the best protection.

“…(The public is encouraged) to ask their health care provider or their health department (about the vaccines to be sure they are) offered the best protection.”

The inoculation will be offered in the form of both a nasal mist and a shot. When it becomes available, it is expected to be offered through the district at all the individual health departments as well as at school-based clinics in Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Dougherty, Early, Mitchell, Terrell, Thomas and Seminole counties — through which representatives from those health departments will be offering the vaccine to students in those schools.

“There are nine school-based clinics this year,” Snow said. “We want to do all 14 next year.”

In the past, there have also been drive-thru clinics offered at various health departments during which individuals can drive up to the site and get their vaccinations.

“Worth County has a big one every year, and they are on board to do it this year,” Snow said. “There are no others on the books yet. I’m sure more will do it, they just haven’t set a date.”

Following a flu season that kept the emergency rooms at area hospitals, including Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, busy last year, it is difficult to tell how the upcoming season will be.

“It is hard to predict how the outbreaks will be,” Snow said. “We always prepare for more than we would expect just to make sure we can cover all patients and the community. There is nothing yet to indicate we will have a spike. All the counties in the district have ordered plenty (of the vaccine).”

A price for the vaccine this year has not been set. Everyone who is 6 months of age or older is encouraged to get the vaccine. There are some groups of people — including children under 5 years, adults over 65 years, pregnant women and those with certain chronic conditions — who are strongly encouraged to get the vaccine because they are at higher risk for flu complications, Snow said.

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the nasal mist, because it is a live attenuated vaccine, is intended for healthy, non-pregnant individuals who are 2-49 years of age.

Snow also said there is a new variation of the flu vaccine being offered by the health district with no egg component so those with severe egg allergies can still get immunized, and that those who feel they need it should speak with their health care provider.