POINT PLEASANT — Diana Riddle, of Mason County Health Department, says that this year flu vaccines for children are free and available regardless of insurance status.
Riddle said that the flu vaccine locations have not changed this year, but some eligibility guidelines for the vaccine from the health department have. Both the injection and nasal mist will be available free for children, and adults who have traditional Medicare may receive their vaccine at the health department.
The Center for Disease Control, added Riddle, recommends that anyone over the age of 6 months, particularly those with health problems, to receive the annual seasonal influenza vaccination and to receive it as early as possible. People should watch local availability at physician’s offices and pharmacies as well as the health department.
Riddle said that the flu virus commonly peaks in January or February, but that in years past outbreaks have been seen as early as November. The flu vaccine is designed to protect against circulating flu viruses for the entire season. This year’s vaccine has a different composition from that of previous years. Vaccines are developed new each year based on the types of flu viruses that have been identified by the Center for Disease Control that caused flu illness the year before.
Typically, Riddle said, flu vaccines will protect against three different types of flu viruses: 2 A viruses and 1 B virus. The B-virus vaccine is new this year. People may be offered a new type of flu vaccine this year that will protect them against 4 types of flu viruses-2 A and 2 B. This vaccine was developed later in the year and may not be readily available at all locations that provide flu vaccine. Any vaccine will protect against circulating flu viruses this fall and winter. The flu vaccine is offered by the traditional injection in your arm, by the nasal mist, or by the newer smaller needle, intradermal, in your arm.
People should consult their health care providers about which vaccine is appropriate, Riddle said. She recommended that adults who have insurance which pays for seasonal flu vaccine, receive their vaccines at a physician office or local pharmacy that can invoice the insurance. Riddle said that at this time, the health department does not invoice private insurance providers for flu vaccine and administration.
Those who have no insurance that pays for seasonal influenza vaccine may still obtain the vaccine at the health department. During last year’s flu vaccine clinics, the staff of the health department polled the attendees regarding insurance and with that information, determined the amount of vaccine to order. In years past the health department and physician’s office were the only two places to receive the annual flu vaccine. In recent years, pharmacies have offered the vaccine—this allows more vaccine to be available in the community, more avenues for the community to obtain their vaccine at different locations and times and to better protect the community against outbreaks.
The Mason County Health Department will be announcing flu vaccination clinics as soon as they receive their vaccine supply. In the meantime, ask your doctor or stop by your pharmacy for your flu shot.