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Flu Vaccines: Nothing to sneeze at

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. This week, Dec. 5 through Dec. 12, is designated National Influenza Vaccination Week and the CDC is taking the opportunity to encourage everyone over the age of 6 months to get the seasonal flu vaccine.

Laura Brown, Ironton health commissioner, said flu shots as well as the nasal-spray flu vaccines are plenteous at the Ironton Health Department. Last year, H1N1 vaccines received a lot of attention and there were fewer flu vaccines available and fewer people made getting them a priority, resulting in an increase in seasonal flu cases.

Brown said flu vaccines normally contain strains of the flu from the previous year as well as the expected flu strain for the coming season. This year, the H1N1 vaccine has been added to the flu vaccine as well.

Another difference this year is the recommendation of who should get the shot. This year it is suggested that everyone ages 6 months and older get the vaccine. In previous years, it has been focused more on the older and younger populations, and on those with health problems.

“Now they are thinking that if they just vaccinate everyone, the numbers will be decreased,” Brown said.

“I’m hoping people will come and get it,” Brown said. “We have plenty of the vaccine and would love to get rid of it.”

The Ironton Health Department offers vaccines from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. with a break from noon until 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. The vaccines are $15 and they will also bill Medicare and Medicaid. No appointment is needed for the vaccination. If a person within Ironton city limits is homebound and would like a vaccination, the health department will send someone to give the vaccine at person’s home.

It takes up to two weeks for the flu shot to become fully effective, and people can still get the flu during that time. The nasal-spray vaccine, commonly given to children, is an active strain of the flu virus and is effective within 24 hours. Brown offered a word of caution for those who receive the nasal-spray vaccine.

“When the kids get the nasal vaccine, we ask the parents to get the nasal vaccine or to come in two weeks earlier for the shot,” she said. The active virus in the nasal spray can cause those in close contact with the vaccinated person to become infected with the flu during those first 24 hours.

“Definitely keep the kids away from grandma and grandpa if they have not had the shot,” she said.

The Lawrence County Health Department is also offering flu vaccinations from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The cost there is $15 for adults and $5 for children, and they can bill Medicaid and Medicare.