Get a shot, not flu

Monday, October 15, 2007

After years of rationing flu shots, the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center is finally confident it has the stock to serve anyone in the area who wants a shot.

Because of problems in manufacturing, shipping or distribution on state and national levels, the shots have been reserved for children or seniors in recent years. This year, though, the health center has plenty and is hosting several flu immunization clinics for the public to come receive a shot.

"I'm not going to question it," said Charlotte Craig, director at the health center. She said she can only speculate that all the manufacturing and approvals from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention went well.

The first clinic is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday at the American Legion in Jackson. Though October is barely flu season, Craig said getting the shots now will still give people five months of protection to last through winter. Flu season is typically November to March, according to the CDC, and a flu shot's life span for protection is roughly that time period.

Craig said some area businesses have started giving employees the option to get the shot, so the word is out that the vaccines are in and the health center is preparing for the rush.

Once they announce they have vaccines the health center is swamped with people wanting to get the shots, Craig said.

The five clinics will allow health center employees to service a large number of people in a short amount of time.

"As organized as we are it doesn't take long at all," Craig said. The long lines can be discouraging, but she estimated only a 30-minute time frame from getting out of the car to getting back into it.

"We've got mass immunizations down to a fine art," Craig said.

The vaccine is a dead version of the flu, generally administered in the arm by a needle. This year the health center also has around 50 nasal spray vaccines for people who "have an aversion to getting the shot," Craig said.

Health officials recommend getting the shot early so you are protected through the flu season. It can be administered at any time, though is ineffective if you have already had the flu.

Many people associate getting the flu shot with getting the flu, but Craig said that is impossible. She said more than likely, the person was already carrying the virus when the shot was given.

"The flu shot cannot give you the flu. It is a dead virus," she said.

In an average year, the flu causes 36,000 deaths -- mostly among those aged 65 years or older -- and more than 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States, according to the CDC.

"This is a disease that we can prevent," Craig said. "It seriously only takes one time and you get down on your sofa and you don't get up for seven to 10 days."

The CDC recommends everyone get a vaccine, but it specifies the young and old, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and anyone who lives or works in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

"Its effective, it's cheap and it keeps you from missing work," Craig said.

The shots are $20, unless a person has Medicare or Medicaid. The clinics will be during October in various locations in the area. If someone misses a clinic, the health department will give shots to walk-ins.

charris@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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