Time to think about flu shots

RBC I This year, the theme for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s flu campaign is “Do Something Easy,” because getting a flu vaccination is a whole lot easier than most of the tasks Coloradans pack into their busy days.
In addition to urging the general public to get vaccinated, the campaign advises healthcare workers to get the flu vaccination since they are exposed to sick patients throughout their work day. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older receive a flu vaccine.
Joni Reynolds, Health Programs director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said now is a good time of year to get vaccinated since influenza typically arrives in the late fall and peaks from late January to mid-March.
“An annual immunization boosts your immune system to once again get ready for flu and is the first and most important step in protecting yourself against this serious disease,” she said.
The 2011-12 seasonal flu vaccine protects against the same flu strains that were circulating last year, including H3N2, influenza B and the H1N1 viruses. Reynolds emphasized, “Although the vaccine is the same as last year’s, it’s important for people to get vaccinated every year.”
New this year is an intradermal flu vaccine, delivered through an ultra-fine needle that is 90 percent shorter than the typical needle used for administering the flu vaccine. The intradermal vaccine is for adults 18 through 64 years of age. There are flu vaccine products available in different forms, including traditional vaccinations and nasal spray, to assist health care providers in administering vaccines to everyone.
Reynolds said the flu vaccine now is available at many doctor’s offices and at a variety of locations throughout Colorado. She suggested people first check on getting the vaccine from their doctor, if their doctor has the vaccine available. “This way, your doctor can document your vaccination. If your doctor is not yet offering vaccinations, they are available at a variety of locations throughout your community,” she said. For a flu clinic locator, visit www.immunizecolorado.com.
Low-cost flu vaccine is available through the Vaccines for Children Program, which offers flu vaccine to children ages 6 months through 18 years who have no insurance, are enrolled in Medicaid, or are Alaskan Native or Native American. This program is available at participating physician’s offices. In addition, local public health agencies provide the Vaccines for Children Program vaccine for eligible children and children who have inadequate health insurance.
Reynolds also advised Coloradans to take additional preventive measures against illness, such as staying away from sick people and washing their hands to reduce the spread of germs. “People who are sick should cover their cough, wash their hands frequently, and stay home from work or school to prevent spreading the flu to others,” she said.
During last year’s flu season, there were three pediatric deaths from flu in Colorado and 1,027 people from 49 Colorado counties were hospitalized for flu-related illnesses.
For more information on flu, visit CDC’s website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.