POINT PLEASANT — Flu prevention season officially begins in October, but the Mason County Health Department has already received a shipment of flu vaccinations and will begin clinics on Monday, according to Diana Riddle, nurse administrator.
The flu clinics will be held at the health department, located at 216 Fifth St. in Point Pleasant, during regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. No evening clinics have been scheduled at this time, Riddle added.
The health department will administer flu vaccines to those with Medicare or no health insurance. Children can receive a flu vaccine at the health department if they have no insurance, have Medicaid, or have a referral from their physician if the physician does not offer flu vaccines. All others must receive their vaccines elsewhere.
Riddle said over the past years with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, more people have insurance that covers the flu vaccines. They are available at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, workplace settings, and even grocery stores.
Also because of this, the state has cut down on the number of flu vaccines sent to the health department, Riddle said. Therefore, no mobile clinics will be conducted in other areas of the county, as in the past.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that people over the age of six months get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in the community, Riddle said. The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February, but seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue as late as May.
Riddle said it takes two weeks for one’s body to build antibodies to protect against any circulating flu viruses after receiving the flu vaccine.
Flu viruses are constantly changing, so it’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year, according to Riddle. She said residents may have heard that last year’s flu vaccine was not a good match for the circulating viruses. She emphasized that this should not be a deterrent to receiving the flu vaccine this year.
It’s not possible to predict with certainty if the vaccine will be a good match for circulating viruses. The experts pick which viruses to include in the vaccine many months in advance for vaccines to be produced and delivered on time, according to Riddle. Even if it is not the perfect match, the vaccine can still provide protection. A less than ideal match may result in reduced vaccine effectiveness, but it can still provide some protection against the other viruses.
Riddle said for the 2015-16 flu season, the trivalent vaccines will contain two A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and one B virus. This represents changes in the influenza A and B composition compared to the vaccine of last year. The quadrivalent vaccines contain the same as the trivalent, as well as an additional B vaccine which offers more protection.
The flu vaccine is the first step to prevent the flu virus from spreading, Riddle said. Other measures that residents should continue to take include covering your cough or sneeze, washing your hands, avoiding touching your face with your hands, avoiding crowds and staying home if you are sick.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and lives in Mason County.