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Flu vaccine readily available; now is best time for shots

It’s never been easier to get a flu shot in Mississippi. There is a large supply of vaccine, and the vaccinations are being offered at workplaces, pharmacies, home health offices, grocery stores, physicians’ offices and, as always, at the Mississippi State Department of Health’s county offices. The cost at county health offices is $25.

With the influenza season looming ahead, healthcare providers stress that now is the time to get vaccinated.

“It’s time right now to get the vaccination because it takes a few weeks for it to take effect,” said Dr. Ed Thompson, state health officer. “There are a lot more places to get it. It’s all over the place, and the supply is plentiful.”

The supply is so readily available that Quality Home Health has already gone through 700 doses on the Coast and ordered 200 more. The Biloxi-based agency is administering the vaccine at its five home health offices and one hospice office across the area.

“We try to do it every year, but are not always able to get the vaccine early,” said Linda Cloer, director of nursing. “We may still order more vaccine because everyone is afraid of the flu, especially in this post Katrina era.”

Quality is charging $20 per vaccine with no long wait and minimal paper work. “We haven’t gone up on our price, although some places are charging $35,” she added. “We’re glad to provide this service to the public and will keep giving them through November.”

Thompson said there is no way to predict the severity of flu season, but the Center for Disease Control can predict which strains are likely to show up here by what’s occurring in the world. Almost every season the match has been pretty good. Still, there are 36,000 deaths from flu and pneumonia each year in the nation, he said, underscoring the need for vaccinations. The number of people getting the shot and taking themselves out of the influenza picture helps determine the severity of the season, which is January, February and March in the South.

While the vaccine is not perfect and some people will still get the flu, being vaccinated will prevent death and hospitalization.

“The vaccination can significantly reduce the chance of getting it or having serious consequences. Virtually everyone can take it,” he said. “It is especially recommended for anyone with a medical condition that the flu will make worse, anyone over age 65 or for the most part over 50, anyone who takes medication for heart and lung disease, children up to age six; school children who are at a high risk of getting it and spreading it and then all others to avoid being sick and missing work.”

It is a myth that a person can get the illness from the vaccination. “There is no live vaccine in the shot. You might have some mild flu-like symptoms — very few people do — and that’s a signal you were unprotected. That’s not the flu,” Thompson said.

Baptist Health Systems’ Corporate Health Services is busy helping businesses vaccinate employees. “We do it on an annual basis for 100 companies and will administer it at work sites for them,” said Renee Cotton, director of corporate health services. “This time of year, flu shots are a full time job.”

L-3 Vertex, Sanderson Farms, Steel Service and Cisco Food Distributors are just a few examples of companies that Cotton and her staff have visited recently. They will continue this service through November and will be at a few work sites in December. Most of the employers pay for the vaccinations for their employers.

“This is the first year in about four that we didn’t have a lengthy delay getting the vaccine, and we also have plenty of it,” she said. “That’s why the shots are so readily available this year.”

Thompson said employers realize the advantage of flu shots. “It’s relatively inexpensive for the benefits it gives,” he said. “All healthcare employees must get it every year so they don’t endanger their patients. The flu can be transmitted 24 hours before feeling the symptoms.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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