Residents of Fairfield County have started lining up a little bit earlier this year for that little needle stick that accompanies a fall tradition, the flu shot.
According to the World Health Organization, this year’s flu vaccine will protect against the H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B flu virus strains.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive a flu immunization.
Children under age 9 require two shots per flu season to remain inoculated against flu.
According to Debbie Quinn, Head Nurse at the Wellness Center through the Fairfield Medical Associates, medical officials expect an earlier flu season this year.
“The vaccine lasts a little longer than usual,” Quinn said. “We began receiving the vaccine shipments in August and the CDC recommended that as soon as we got the vaccine that we start giving it out to people.”
She said the new version of a flu shot can potentially protect someone for up to a year depending up their immune system. Older vaccines were good for around 120 days.
She said it is more advantageous to get the flu shot now because the more people we can get vaccinated, the less likely there will be an outbreak in Fairfield County.
“Years ago people used to wait until October or November for a flu shot in hopes they could have enough benefit to last them the entire flu season. But we have had a good response of patients coming in to get shots to this point,” Quinn said. “Many are coming in just for the flu shot, though we remind our patients as they come in for checkups about the flu shot, too.”
Fairfield Medical Associates tries to have multiple sites for flu shots and will go into corporations to offer the shots to employees.
Those benefits help the entire community, according to Dr. Jeremy Crisp with the Fairfield Memorial Hospital.
“Even if a person gets the flu without any complications, it can still be a seven day illness that will take them out of work and possibly put their family at risk of catching it. A $25 flu shot can save thousands of dollars in direct health care costs, but also lost time and productivity from the workforce,” Crisp said. “If a complication sets in, such as pneumonia, a hospital bill may be added on top of that.”
Crisp emphasized that for certain people the flu can be deadly, including groups such as small children, the elderly and people with medical conditions that make them susceptible to serious infections.
Some of those conditions include diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or emphysema, obesity, pregnancy, and heart disease.
“Thousands of people die every year from complications of the flu,” Crisp said. “That is preventable.”
He recommended patients go to their local primary care provider or any number of flu clinics to receive flu shots.Shots are now available at Wal-mart as well as Fairfield Medical Associates.
The Fairfield County Health Department definitely will give out shots on Oct. 1 but workers there hope to have them available a few weeks earlier.
According to Jim Beasley with S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) media relations “ (DHEC) just started getting supplies shipped to health departments. Oct. 1 looked like a logical date to go with but we encourage people to call their local health department to see if shots are available sooner. The start date can vary by county depending on the early availability of supplies.”
The CDC cautions, however, that infants less than 6 months of age, persons allergic to eggs or flu vaccine ingredients, and persons who have had Guillian-Barre syndrome within six weeks of a previous flu vaccination should not take the flu shot.
Patients should call their health care provider or call the county health department at 635-6481 to confirm flu shots are available before they go to get a shot.
Ellen Cooper, head nurse at Fairfield Health Department, said the department will begin giving flu shots on Sept 26.