Public health officials are gearing up for an approaching flu season, and county health departments plan to open immunization clinics soon.
The Oklahoma City-County Health Department is encouraging residents to protect themselves and their families by getting flu shots early in the season. The health department will begin offering seasonal influenza vaccinations on Monday.
“Flu can be a dangerous disease for people of all ages — even healthy children and adults,” said Dr. Dale Claflin, the health department medical director, in a news release. “Getting an annual flu shot is the most important step in protecting against the flu. Influenza vaccine is very safe and effective.”
Public health influenza vaccination clinics will begin at county health departments throughout the state on Monday. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older. Pregnant women and people with asthma, diabetes, chronic heart and lung disease, or other chronic conditions are strongly encouraged to get the vaccine.
Parents and family members of infants younger than 6 months of age and people who live with or care for anyone at high risk for complications from the flu, including health care workers, also should get the vaccine.
The Oklahoma City-County Health Department's immunization clinic is at 921 NE 23. The clinic hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays; and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays.
The clinic is open during the lunch hour and appointments are not required for general immunizations. The clinic can be reached by calling 425-4343.
The flu vaccination costs $25 with the exception of the high-dose shot, which costs $27. The health department provides flu vaccinations at no charge to individuals or families who qualify for fee waivers through a variety of programs.
Influenza vaccine formulations generally change each year based on samples collected of viruses circulated throughout the world, according to the state Health Department.
A flu vaccination received last year will not provide protection this year. Two new strains of influenza have begun circling the globe, and the updated vaccine appears to work well against them, government officials said Thursday.
Just because last year was the mildest flu season on record doesn't mean the virus might not bounce back to its usual ferocity this winter, officials said.
“People cannot become complacent this year,” said Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, who received his own flu shot Thursday.
Families with income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, seniors who are on Medicare and not covered by a managed care option and children who have no health insurance, are on SoonerCare, are American Indian or Alaskan natives, or whose insurance does not cover vaccines may qualify for vouchers for free shots. Residents who qualify should bring a photo ID.
The Oklahoma City clinic cannot bill health insurance for individual vaccinations, but some insurance companies may reimburse members who provide receipts. The health department will accept cash, check and credit cards for payment.
Flu vaccinations are also available from many pharmacies, doctors and clinics.
The health department asks that residents bring immunization records with them. A child getting the shot must have a parent or legal guardian present. Any person other than the parent must have legal proof of guardianship or a permission letter from the parent stating that the child may have the necessary shots on a specific date.
Many county health departments also will provide pneumococcal pneumonia vaccinations for people who are 65 years of age and older and those with chronic health conditions. Pneumococcal pneumonia is a potentially serious complication of the flu.
Contributing: The Associated Press