Special to the Journal
Only 40.5% of Georgians were vaccinated against seasonal influenza in 2010-2011, according to a survey by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That puts the state at No. 41 out of the 50 states – and places its residents at greater risk of catching an illness that can result in hospitalizations or even death.
“Dec. 4 leads off National Influenza Vaccination Week, a time when we are emphasizing that it is not too late to get protection for yourself and your loved ones,” said Southwest Health District Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.
“The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older as the first and best way to protect against influenza,” she said. “That’s because people of every race, class and environment are equally at risk of infection.”
While flu season starts as early as August, it may last as late as May.
“Right now, we are heading into peak flu season,” Grant said. “Our county health departments have ample supplies of flu vaccine, with both the injectable and nasal mist forms available.”
The flu shots (injected vaccines) do not contain live viruses and are approved for people ages 6 months and older. Nasal spray vaccine is made with live, weakened flu viruses and is approved for healthy people 2 through 49 who are not pregnant.
Children aged 6 months through 8 years require two doses of influenza vaccine (administered four weeks apart) during their first season of vaccination, Grant said.
Flu vaccine is produced using egg protein, and while reports of severe allergic reactions are rare, she recommended those with egg allergies to discuss with their private healthcare providers whether getting the vaccine is appropriate for them.
Among those most at risk of complications from flu are pregnant women, those with chronic diseases, healthcare workers, older adults and the very young, Grant said. “We strongly urge those who fall into these groups to get the protection they need against influenza.”
Flu vaccine cost $25 per dose at county health departments, and a variety of payment options are available. For more information, contact your local health department.