Flu shots available for at-risk residents

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Flu immunizations for young children and high-risk adults arenow available at Mississippi Department of Health clinicsstatewide.

“October is traditionally the time we encourage Mississippiansto obtain the flu vaccine,” said Dr. Brian Amy, state healthofficer. “We are following the guidelines set by the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention and will first focus on vaccinatinghigh-risk individuals. We will then expand the vaccinations toinclude the general public.

People considered to be high-risk are those age 65 or older;residents of long-term care facilities; individuals with long-termhealth problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease(including asthma), metabolic diseases such as diabetes, blooddisorders or a weakened immune system; children between the ages of6 and 23 months; women who are pregnant; health care professionals;and anyone who lives with or cares for children less than 6 monthsold.

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The vaccine currently is available only to high-riskindividuals, but there is an adequate supply this year to immunizeeveryone who wants to receive the shot, said Dr. Clay Hammack, theDistrict Seven health manager.

“We’re not expecting a shortage this year,” Hammack said.”Apparently, the CDC has been able to get what they requested forthis year.”

A shortage of the flu vaccine was triggered last year when amajor producer of the vaccine in the United Kingdom was closed downover potentially contaminated supplies. The closure meant theUnited States received only about half the vaccine it needed toimmunize at-risk residents.

Long lines formed as the elderly, sick, mothers and othersflooded health offices and emptied doctors’ offices of thevaccine.

Although the vaccine is only available now to high-riskindividuals, there is very little danger of running out of vaccinethis year, Hammack said. Plans are to begin to immunize the generalpublic around the end of the month.

“That’s as close as I can get it right now,” he said.

Mississippi’s flu season typically begins in December or earlyJanuary and runs through March.

Adult flu vaccinations at the Health Department clinics cost$15, and the pediatric vaccine costs $10. Pneumonia vaccinationsalso will be available for a cost of $25.

The most dangerous complication of the flu is pneumonia,according to the health department, and officials recommendhigh-risk individuals also take that shot.