It's that time of year again when people are asked to roll up their sleeves and feel the slight pinch of the needle as flu vaccinations roll out across the country.
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency will begin its community seasonal flu vaccination clinics on Oct 22. The three scheduled clinics are at: 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Ceres School District Office's board room at 2503 Lawrence St.; 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 29 at the eCademy Charter School's Professional Staff Development Center at 1100 Cahill St. in Turlock; and from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at Northmead School's cafeteria at 625 L St. in Patterson.
The seasonal flu vaccine will be available for anyone six months of age and older. Individuals covered by Medi-Cal, Anthem Blue Cross Managed Care, Health Net Managed Care, MIA, or straight Medicare Part B will not be required to pay for the immunization. Individuals covered under a Medicare HMO plan (i.e. Kaiser, Secure Horizons, Health Net, Sutter Gould, etc.) should receive vaccinations from their health care provider. Individuals not covered by the insurance payers listed above or do not have any insurance, the cost will be $10 for children age six months to 18 years of age or $25 for anyone aged 19 years and older. Stanislaus County Health Services Agency said a patient's inability to pay will not be a barrier to a vaccination.
This year the flu vaccine will offer protection against three strains of flu: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like, A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like and B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like antigens. Flu vaccines are determined by experts from Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other institutions studying virus samples collected from around the world. Influenza viruses included in the vaccines are selected based on information that includes which viruses are being detected and how easily they are spread, according to the CDC.
Numerous variables can make for an unpredictable flu season, including the timing, severity, and length of the epidemic.
"The seasonal flu vaccine is important and is a safe way to protect yourself and your loved ones against the seasonal flu," said Dr. John Walker, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer. "Everyone six months and older should get a flu shot this fall."
Flu season typically begins around October or November and can extend as late as May. In the U.S. flu activity tends to peak in January and February, according to the CDC. The 2011-12 flu season began late and was relatively mild compared to other years, though health officials caution that is no indication what the 2012-13 season holds in store.
The CDC reported an estimated 146 million to 149 million doses of flu vaccine will be produced this season by private companies.
In addition to getting vaccinated, public health officials recommend everyone help prevent the spread of the seasonal flu by:
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth;
• Covering your coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or tissue;
• Washing your hands often. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are not able to wash your hands; and
• Staying home if you are sick.
Additional seasonal flu information can be found at the HSA website at www.hsahealth.org or by calling the flu information line at 558-8872.