Flu vaccines available from public health

ALBANY — The 14 county health departments in the Southwest Public Health District have joined a few of the pharmacies in the area by beginning to offer this season’s flu vaccine.

Officials say there is an “ample supply” of both nasal mist and flu shots. The health departments began offering the vaccine Thursday at $25 per dose.

This is ahead of the time frame public health officials gave last month, which indicated that the vaccine would be available around Oct. 1.

“The shipment came earlier than expected. It is hard to tell when you’re going to get it,” said Alice Rodman, infectious disease and adult health supervisor at the Dougherty County Health Department. “We did get some of it early.”

There is some of the trivalent vaccine currently available, which protects against two strains of Influenza A and one strain of Influenza B. The quadrivalent supply of the flu shot, which protects against two strains each of Influenza A and Influenza B, is expected sometime next week, Rodman said.

“The flu mist (that is available) is quadrivalent,” she said.

Meanwhile, there are 10 school districts within the 14 counties — including Dougherty — offering school-based seasonal flu vaccination clinics beginning this week, inoculating students with parental consent.

“We will be going into all of the elementary schools and pre-K centers in Dougherty County,” Rodman said.

The other nine counties that will be conducting school-based clinics are Thomas, Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Early, Decatur, Mitchell, Terrell and Seminole, Rodman said.

Seasonal flu can cause mild to severe illness, even death. Adults over age 65, children under 5, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease are encouraged to get the vaccine since they are at high risk for flu complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older as the first and best way to protect against influenza.

Those wishing to get their vaccines at their respective health departments are welcome to walk-in, but appointments are preferred, Rodman said.

Flu mist is meant for non-pregnant individuals aged 2 through 49 who do not have respiratory complications or certain chronic diseases because it is a live attenuated vaccine. It is also recommended that those sick with a fever not get the vaccine until they recover.

Flu symptoms include fever — usually high — headache, extreme tiredness, a dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms are also common, especially in children, health officials say.

“In Dougherty County, there have been cases of Type A flu already confirmed (this year), so we do want to make sure everyone gets vaccinated,” Rodman said.

Besides getting the vaccine, other actions that protect against the flu include covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based rub and staying home for at least 24 hours after a fever connected to a flu-like illness is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

It is recommended for people to call ahead regarding payment options. The health departments accept Medicaid, Medicare and many common insurance carriers as well as cash. Some patients are also candidates for the Vaccines for Children program as well, public health officials say.