With 13 varieties of vaccines licensed and a wide range of providers offering it, there certainly is a lot of choice around flu vaccine this fall. But the most important choice? Deciding to protect yourself and those around you by getting vaccinated.
“Flu is what we call an equal opportunity infector—anyone can get the flu,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health with the Northern Kentucky Health Department. “And for many people, the flu is miserable, requiring a few days off of school or work and suffering through a fever and aches and pains. But for other groups, including very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions, the flu can cause very serious illness and can even be life threatening. Getting vaccinated will protect not only you, but those at risk around you.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that last flu season, vaccination averted between approximately 5 million cases of flu, and prevented more than 86,000 hospitalizations from flu complications.
The Health Department is offering flu vaccine by appointment at its four county health centers, listed below.
- Boone County Health Center, 7505 Burlington Pike, Florence, Ky., 859-363-2060
- Campbell County Health Center, 1098 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-431-1704
- Grant County Health Center, 234 Barnes Road, Williamstown, Ky., 859-824-5074
- Kenton County Health Center, 2002 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., 859-431-3345
Cost is $25, but no one will be turned away for inability to pay. Flu vaccine is covered by Medicaid and the federal program Vaccine for Children for those who are eligible. Most private health insurance providers also cover flu vaccination as a preventive service. While the Health Department will vaccinate anyone who wishes to receive it, individuals with private insurance may want to consider getting vaccinated by another provider, as the Health Department does not directly bill private insurance plans.
“The flu vaccine is safe and millions of doses are given each year,” said Saddler. “Some people may experience mild side effects, such as a sore arm or low-grade fever, but the flu vaccine does not cause the flu. In fact, it’s the best protection we have. Now is the time to talk to your health care provider about vaccination.”
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after they are administered. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. An annual flu vaccine is important as the strains covered in the vaccine change from year-to-year, and a person’s immunity from vaccination can decline over time. A vaccine each year boosts that immunity back up, and provides the best possible protection for those strains of the flu expected to circulate this season.
“Besides getting vaccinated against the flu, there are other important measures to take to prevent the spread of disease,” said Saddler. “This includes things like washing hands often with soap and water; covering your nose and mouth with your arm or a tissue when you cough or sneeze; avoiding people who are sick when possible, and staying home when you are sick. If you do become ill with symptoms of flu, including fever and fatigue, contact your health care provider to see if it is appropriate to use anti-viral medications, as these have been shown to limit severe complications from flu.”
Influenza is a serious disease that results in tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations every year. During the 2016-2017 flu season, more than 2,200 cases were reported in Northern Kentucky, and 14 deaths were attributed to complications from the flu. The classic symptoms include sudden onset of chills, fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, dry cough and extreme fatigue. Children who develop flu symptoms should not be treated with aspirin, as it can lead to Reye’s Syndrome.
For more information on the flu, please click here.