Flu vaccine crucial to preventing severe season
About a month into flu season, Colorado is seeing cases sporadically, including some in Grand County, and public health officials are encouraging everyone who can to get a flu vaccine.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the most prevalent flu strains this season are expected to be influenza A subtype H3N2 and influenza A subtype H1N1.
Who can get the flu vaccine?
Anyone between the ages of six months and 65 years, as long as they are not immunocompromised. Pregnant women can get the flu vaccine at any time as long as it is the inactive virus. Those over 65 are recommended to get a high-dose vaccine. People with mild egg allergies can also get the flu vaccine this year.
October is the ideal time, but you can get one as late as June. If you are planning to travel, consider getting one before your trip.
Where can you get the flu vaccine?
Middle Park Health: Make an appointment at any of their clinic locations for billing through insurance or walk-in to any of the clinic locations for $20.
Safeway: Walk-ins welcome from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for flu vaccines. Safeway takes most insurance.
City Market: Walk-ins welcome during pharmacy hours for flu vaccines. City Market takes most insurance.
Grand County Public Health: The public health department offers vaccines for children, people who are underinsured or uninsured and those on Medicaid or Medicare with an appointment.
“The A(H3N2) flu virus is actually known to cause more severe illness,” said Abbie Baker, administration and program manager for Grand County Public Health. “Flu seasons are really unpredictable with the best way to combat it being a really severe flu season is to vaccinate.”
Grand County providers are offering quadrivalent flu vaccines this year, which include both of the influenza strains that are expected to be prevalent this year as well as two others. The CDC states getting the flu vaccine can reduce a person’s risk of contracting the flu by 40-60% and, if a vaccinated person gets the flu, it will reduce the severity of their symptoms.
The ideal time to get vaccinated is in October, but vaccines can be given until June.
Flu vaccines are available at the pharmacies at Safeway and City Market, as well as Middle Park Health. Grand County Public Health is also offering flu vaccines for those who are uninsured, underinsured or on Medicaid and a limited number of high-dose vaccines for people over 65.
Baker noted that so far no hospitalizations have happened this year in the county, but said getting a flu vaccine protects more than just the person who received the immunization.
“The vaccine is not only important to help an individual either recover more quickly from exposure or avoid contracting the flu completely, but it also protects those who are unable to get the vaccine,” she said.
Influenza is highly contagious and a person who contracts the flu is contagious beginning the day before symptoms appear and for seven days after, Baker said, emphasizing that anyone feeling unwell should try to stay home and not just from work.
Aside from getting the vaccine, Baker encouraged people to wash their hands, cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing and to sanitize door knobs, phones, laptops, pens and any other shared items to help prevent spread.
“The more an illness is passed on from person to person, the more likely it is to mutate and change so that the vaccine is no longer as effective,” she said.
For those who do catch the flu, rest and hydrating are key and more severe cases are encouraged to see a doctor quickly, since Tamiflu, the anti-viral prescribed for influenza, is most effective within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
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