"The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older as the first and best way to protect against influenza," said Dougherty County Health Department Manager Vamella Lovett. "This recommendation is the same even during years when the vaccine composition â" the virus mix the vaccine protects you against â" remains unchanged from the previous season, as it does this year."
There are two reasons for the recommendation despite the fact the vaccine hasn't changed, Lovett explained. "First, since flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the most recent and commonly circulating viruses." The second reason is that a person's immune protection declines over time and annual vaccination is needed for optimal protection, she said.
The flu shots (injected vaccines) do not contain live viruses and are approved for people ages 6 months and older. Nasal spray vaccine is made with live, weakened flu viruses and is approved for healthy people 2 through 49 who are not pregnant.
Children aged 6 months through 8 years require two doses of influenza vaccine (administered four weeks apart) during their first season of vaccination, Lovett said.
Flu vaccine is produced using egg protein, and while reports of severe allergic reactions are rare, she recommended those with egg allergies to discuss with their private healthcare providers whether getting the vaccine is appropriate for them. Among those most at risk of complications from flu are pregnant women, those with chronic diseases, healthcare workers, older adults and the very young, Lovett said. "We strongly urge those who fall into these groups to get the protection they need against influenza."
She said the health department has an ample supply of vaccine on hand. "We accept cash, checks, Medicaid, Medicare and State Health Benefit plans, United Health Care and Cigna," she said. For more information, contact the Dougherty County Health Department at 430-6200.