Dept. devotes day to flu shot delivery

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 16, 2008

The coming of winter, slow and warm though it may be, signifiesthe coming of Mississippi’s influenza season, and state healthofficials are employing the doctrine of preemption – especially forschool children.

Lincoln County residents may obtain flu vaccinations Friday from8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Lincoln County Health Department for$25. And children under age 19 may be vaccinated for $10 as part ofa special flu clinic where all the department’s focus will be onissuing vaccinations.

Pneumonia vaccinations are also available for $48.

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Medicare and Medicaid recipients can receive the vaccinationsfor free by providing their insurance cards.

After what Mississippi State Department of Health DistrictHealth Officer Dr. Clay Hammack called “quite a heavy flu season”last winter, the state health department is hoping massimmunizations like Friday’s will see the vaccination of many youngchildren and students, so the state’s schools – where influenzatends to spread rapidly – will be healthier this winter.

“One of the ways that the flu tends to spread through acommunity is through schools and through children,” Hammack said.”The more people in that age group we can immunize, the more we cancut down on the spread through the community.”

Hammack said the department’s old recommendation that childrenage 6 months to 5 years be vaccinated annually has been extendedfrom 6 months to 18 years to emphasize students.

Other demographics Hammack identified as having a high risk toinfluenza include people over age 50, women who will be pregnantthrough the flu season and people with chronic lung or heartdisease and diabetes.

Hammack also recommended annual vaccinations for residents ofnursing homes, caregivers to the elderly or children under the ageof 5 and health care personnel.

A shortage of flu vaccine, which was an issue in the early2000s, is not expected to be a problem this year, Hammack said.

“The manufacturers are telling us there won’t be any shortage,and we want to provide the influenza vaccine to anybody who wantsit,” he said. “By holding a one-day clinic, we can immunize a lotof people at one time and, hopefully, prevent a lot ofinfluenza.”

Friday’s one-day vaccination blitz marks the start of influenzaprevention this winter. Hammack said the traditional peak seasonfor Mississippi is January through March, though cases have begunoccurring in December in the past.

The virus hasn’t really begun spreading so far, Hammack said,but the state health department’s thinking is, “Why wait?”

“The sooner we can get people immunized, the better off we’llbe,” he said.

Unfortunately, there are no tell tale signs that signify whethera flu season will be severe or not. Last year’s, Hammack said, washeavy, but the year before was light.

“You deal with it as it comes,” he said. “[Friday’s clinic] willbe a convenient way to hopefully get a lot of people immunized atone time.”

For more information, interested people may contact the LincolnCounty Health Department at (601) 833-3314..