Southwest Public Health District’s 14 county health departments are now offering seasonal influenza vaccinations, says District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.
“This year for the first time we are offering high-dose vaccine for patients 65 and older along with flu shots and the nasal spray form of the vaccine,” Grant said. “All health departments take walk-in patients for immunizations,” she said. “Along with accepting cash, our staff is happy to file insurance for influenza vaccines on Medicare, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Aetna, Medicaid, all CMOs such as Peachstate, Amerigroup and Wellcare, and Peachcare.”
Fluzone High-Dose influenza vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that prompts the body to make antibody) contained in regular flu shots, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
“Human immune defenses become weaker with age, placing older adults at greater risk of severe illness from influenza,” Grant explained. “Also, aging decreases the body’s ability to have a good immune response after getting influenza vaccine. A higher dose of antigen in the vaccine aims at giving older adults a better immune response, with the result being better protection against flu.”
Self-pay cost for the high-dose vaccine is $35 per patient.
“Flu mist is indicated for healthy non-pregnant persons aged 2 through 49,” Grant said. It contains a weakened form of the virus. It is thimerosal-free plus it contains no other preservatives, she said. Flu shots are approved for use in people as young as 6 months old and up – and the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for those 6 months and older as the first and best way to protect against seasonal influenza.
The self-pay fee for flu shots and the nasal mist vaccine is $25. Seasonal flu can cause mild to severe illness – and even death, Grant noted.
“Some people, such as older adults, young children and people with chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease are at high risk for serious flu complications,” she said.
Flu symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, a dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms are also common, especially in children. Besides getting the flu vaccine, there are other actions that protect against the flu:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based rub if soap and water aren’t available.
- People who are sick with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
For more information about the seasonal flu vaccine, contact your local health department or go to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org or www.cdc.gov.