That time again - get your flu vaccine now
By Patricia Deal
CRDAMC Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas--Influenza, a contagious respiratory illness spread through the air or through contact with a contaminated object, results in more than 150,000 hospitalizations due to serious complications and more than 30,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
The influenza vaccine has been proven effective in preventing influenza infections, and the CDC and World Health Organization recommend everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.
With the flu season underway at Fort Hood, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center has already issued well over 30,000 influenza vaccines to units and clinics, according to Maj. Rosemary Wosky, from CRDAMC’s Army Public Health Nursing Department.
For the military community, active-duty service members are vaccinated first, then high risk patients and health care workers and then the rest of community.
“We’ve vaccinated over 50 percent of our Soldiers as of the first week in October, and should have 90 percent vaccinated by the first of December. Additionally, we’ve already vaccinated more than 75 percent of our hospital staff,” she said. “We're on track to meet our goal of maximum vaccinations this year."
Primary care clinics (including Thomas Moore, Bennett, Pediatrics, Russell Collier, Family Residency) and the Medical Homes in Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and Killeen, are already vaccinating family members, added Wosky. The flu vaccine is now available in primary care clinics Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on a walk-in basis. Patients may also ask for the vaccine during a regularly scheduled appointment.
Darnall does not expect a shortage of vaccines this year. Wosky said the Medical Center received an ample supply from the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency.
The vaccine is available as an injection or as a nasal spray. The injection is approved for adults and children six months and older. The nasal spray is approved only for healthy children two years and older and healthy adults up to 49 years. Pregnant women and people who have a weakened immune system or who have chronic medical problems should not get the nasal spray since it contains a live virus. Those who live with a person with a severely weakened immune system should not get the nasal spray.
"It is highly recommended that all military healthcare beneficiaries be vaccinated," Wosky said. “We make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to get the shot or the nasal spray. Flu vaccines are available at our military health clinics and family members and retirees can also choose to get it off-post at local civilian pharmacies.
“It’s reimbursable through TRICARE, and some places offer the vaccine for free. We hold various outreach events though out the community during the season where we offer the the vaccine, such as at the Retiree Health Fair (Oct. 29) or you can walk in at any clinic for your vaccine during the hours specified for giving the vaccine - no appointment necessary,” she continued.
This year’s flu vaccine composition (usually three different vaccines), as determined by the CDC, the World Health Organization and other medical officials, is the same as last year’s. No new strains are expected for this flu season.
But even though the vaccine is the same, that shouldn’t stop anyone from getting it this year, Wosky warned. Immunity to influenza viruses declines over time and may be too low to provide protection after a year.
“Everyone should get the flu vaccine, every year. It’s the single best way to protect yourself against the flu,” said Wosky. “The vaccine is simple and easy to get, it’s completely safe, and is proven to be the best defense against the flu virus. Only a minority of our patients have legitimate medical reasons to not get vaccinated. For the rest of us, it's like an insurance policy to protect our health.”
Flu vaccines will continue to be available at CRDAMC throughout the flu season, which can peak in January, February or even later.
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Colonel Patrick Sargent, CRDAMC commander, receives his nasal mist flu vaccination Sept. 30. As of the first week in October, more than 30,000 influenza vaccines have been issued to Fort Hood units, and the vaccine will be available for all military beneficiaries throughout the rest of the flu season. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Deal, CRDAMC Public Affairs)
Public Affairs Office
Capt. Erin Cooksley
Fort Hood, TX 76544