Sunday, October 1, 2023

Here’s the deal about the flu vaccine, where to get a free one

(Southside Daily file photo)
(Southside Daily file photo)

More than 61,000 people are estimated to have died from the flu during what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said was the longest flu season they’ve seen in a decade.

While the prime time for the virus is typically in fall and winter months peaking from December to about February, the 2018-2019 season spanned 21-weeks into May 2019.

Officials at the CDC said 116 children were among the thousands who died even with pediatric vaccination rates at 68 percent, or five percent higher than they were during the season before.

The greater percentage of adults remaining unvaccinated, however, remains a consistent trend throughout the years even though the flu shot is recommended for them.

“There are flu shots approved for use in children as young as 6 months of age and flu shots approved for use in adults 65 years and older,” CDC officials said. “Flu shots also are recommended for use in pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. ”

They also said kids ages 6 months and up through 4 years old, adults over 50 years old, and women who are pregnant should be prioritized to receive the vaccine during a shortage.

But with manufacturers projecting they’ll provide up to 169 million doses of the vaccine, a shortage for the 2019-2020 season isn’t expected, officials said.

It’s difficult to say why some adults don’t receive the flu shot, but the CDC does address  common misconceptions people may have, including the fact that it “cannot cause flu illness.”

Although low-grade fever, muscle aches, and headache can occur after receiving a flu shot and runny nose, sore throat, wheezing and cough are side effects of the flu nasal spray vaccine, CDC officials said the symptoms are usually mild and only last a few days.

“The most common reactions people have to flu vaccines are considerably less severe than the symptoms caused by actual flu illness,” they said.

Here are more myth-busters from the CDC in response to common misconceptions about the flu and flu vaccines:

  • The CDC does not recommend one flu vaccine over the other, but that patients receive the licensed flu vaccine appropriate for their age and health status.
  • Getting the flu illness is not better than receiving the flu vaccine due to the increased risk of complications, hospitalization, and even death that can result from the illness.
  • Yes, people need a flu vaccine every year even if the virus the vaccine protects against hasn’t changed from the year before.
  • Don’t wait to get a flu vaccine but it’s okay to receive one even after November.

For adults in Hampton Roads, Sentara makes getting a flu shot easy with their “Drive-Thru Flu” event happening on Oct. 12.

Health care providers from the regional hospital network are setting up at 11 locations throughout the seven cities to give out free flu shots on a first-come, first-serve basis without patients even having to leave the car.

Residents on the Southside can receive their free flu shot from 8 a.m. to noon at Sentara Princess Anne, Sentara Virginia Beach General, and Sentara Independence hospitals in Virginia Beach, or at Sentera Norfolk General and Sentara Leigh hospitals in Norfolk.

To see all 11 “Drive-Thru Flu” locations for the Peninsula and Southside, click here.

Nurses from Virginia Beach’s Department of Public Health, the Virginia Beach Medical Reserve Corps, and city EMS are also giving out 900 free flu shots to adults and children ages 3 and older at Newtown Elementary school on Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Specific questions about the flu vaccine should be addressed with a health care provider; more information can also be accessed by clicking here. 

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