Roll up your sleeves: Plenty of flu shots available

The specter of swine flu isn’t hanging over the 2010-11 flu season, but that doesn’t mean a flu shot isn’t in order.
“The CDC is strongly recommending anyone over the age of 6 months receive a flu shot,” said Dr. Paul Byars, Mississippi state epidemiologist.
This year, there’s plenty to go around. Pharmacies, medical clinics and county health departments are stocked and ready. Because 2009 H1N1 – swine flu – is covered by the seasonal vaccine this year, and there’s no need for different shots.
“We hope to be able to give them to everyone who wants one,” Byars said.
Seniors have a high-dose flu-shot option for the first time this flu season. The shot has four times the antigen, and trials have shown it has 11/2 times the immune response.
“It’s designed to provide a better immune response in the hope of giving increased protection against the flu and complications of the flu,” Byars said. “We do know seniors are at higher risk for complications if they do get infected with the flu.”
Around the region flu shots cost between $20 and $25. Children can get flu shots at county health departments for $10.
Free shots will be available in some communities in the coming days. On Saturday, OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville will have a limited supply – about 130 doses – starting at 7:30 a.m.
“We’re planning on another clinic in November,” when additional doses are delivered, said Kim Roberts, OCH director of infection control, “but we didn’t want to wait to give out what we had.”
On Nov. 4, the annual Live Well Health Fair, sponsored by North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo, will have 7,000 doses. That’s a 1,000-dose increase in response to community interest in the flu shots.
“We’ve run out the last two years,” said Liz Dawson, NMMC Community Health director.
Season preview
It’s too early to know how the 2010-11 flu season will shape up, but things have been relatively calm so far.
The Mississippi State Department of Health lab has confirmed three flu cases while monitoring the strains of flu circulating in Mississippi, Byars said. The department’s sentinel physician network – which provides a rough gauge of the geographic spread and percentage of people affected by flu – has not reported any significant uptick.
“There’s flu all the time,” and if you do testing for it, you’ll find it,” Byars said. “More telling is the percentage of influenza-like illness, and that hasn’t budged.”
Historically, Mississippi’s flu season peaks in January and February, but it can come earlier or later.
“Anyone who wants to protect themselves and their family from the flu should get vaccinated,” Byars said.
Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Free flu shots
■ Low-cost flu shots are widely
available through pharmacies, medical
clinics and county health departments.
Here are some resources for
free flu shots:
• 7:30 a.m. Saturday, OCH South
Tower Outpatient waiting area,
Starkville. Limited number of shots
available for those 18 and older. Call
(662) 615-2820.
• Noon to 7 p.m. Nov. 4, NMMC
Live Well Health Fair at Tupelo Furniture
Market. Shots for children and
adults. Health fair also features free
and low-cost screenings and health
information. Children’s activities from
3 to 6 p.m. Call (800) 843-337.
Who shouldn’t get one?
• Those with severe allergies to eggs.
• Those who had a severe reaction
to a previous flu shot.
• Those who have Guillain-Barre
syndrome within six weeks of a previous
flu shot.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal