News

Flu vaccine should be plentiful this year

By Teresa Herriman

The Courier-Herald

Nationwide shipping delays are keeping some area outlets guessing about when they will be able to provide flu shots this year.

Robin Peterson, coordinator of Good Samaritan Hospital's Mobile Health Unit, said there isn't a shortage of vaccine. However, the delay from the manufacturer means the vaccine will be shipped in increments. Outlets like the Mobile Health Unit should be receiving their full orders by the end of October or first of November, she said.

"There's plenty of vaccine," she said. "In the beginning, it may be hit or miss, but we will start giving it the minute we have it."

Peterson said the flu manufacturer has produced more vaccine than last year and she expects no shortages.

"What happened last year really scared people," she said, referring to the run on the vaccine in December that created long lines and nationwide shortages.

The flu, also called influenza, kills an average of 36,000 Americans a year, mostly among the elderly.

Although anyone can get the flu, the vaccine is recommended for people 50 years and older; residents of long-term care facilities; people with long-term health problems including asthma, diabetes and heart and lung conditions; people with weakened immune systems and any person who might come into contact with people in the high-risk categories.

This year the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending children from the age of 6 to 23 months and all household members who come in contact with them, get vaccinated.

Women who will be pregnant during the flu season are also encouraged to get the shot.

The CDC suggests that all high-risk individuals get vaccinated sometime in October. However, if that is not possible, it is still beneficial even after the New Year, since the flu season can extend into the spring.

"People think it's too late and it's really not," Peterson said.

Demand for the shot begins to wane after December.

"But the flu vaccine can be given anytime during the flu season," she added.

The Mobile Health Unit is in Bonney Lake the second Thursday of the month. From 9:30 a.m. until noon, it is at the senior center at 19304 Bonney Lake Blvd. Then from 1:30 to 4 p.m., it is found in the Safeway parking lot at 21301 state Route 410 E.

Flu shots are $20 and pneumonia vaccines are $30. The flu vaccine is administered annually. The pneumonia shot is good for approximately five years.

Last year, Good Samaritan gave more than 6,000 flu vaccines. Peterson said she anticipates the same number this year.

The unit accepts Medicare Part B if it is not affiliated with a health maintenance organization.

For more information about the flu vaccine, visit the CDC's Immunization Action Coalition Web site at www.immunize.org.

Teresa Herriman can be reached at therriman@courierherald.com.

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