Flu season is here and now is the time to get vaccinated to protect yourself, your family and your community from the flu. “Flu seasons are unpredictable, so it’s important to get your flu vaccine as soon as it’s available, before people start getting sick,” said state health officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. “Getting the flu vaccine now will provide protection throughout the season. It’s not too early.”
Yearly flu vaccination is recommended for everyone age six months and older. It’s especially important for young kids; pregnant women; people 65 and older; caregivers and people with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and neurological conditions.
The vaccine is already available from many health care providers, including pharmacies, and there are more vaccine options this year than ever before.
The vaccine is available as a flu shot or nasal spray. Some vaccines will protect against four different strains of flu virus; there’s an egg-free version for those with allergies and a vaccine that uses a smaller needle than the typical flu shot. Ask your health care professional which vaccine is best for you and your family.
The Healthy People 2020 goal for flu vaccination coverage is 80 percent or higher. Only about 47 percent of people in Washington were vaccinated against flu last season so there’s work to be done. Communities are better protected from flu if vaccination rates are higher, according to the state department of health.
The state health department bought more than 754,000 doses of flu vaccine for children through age 18. They can get the vaccine from their regular health care providers. Children under nine years old may need two doses for the best protection.
Health professionals may charge an office visit fee and an administration fee to give the vaccine. People who can’t afford the administration fee can ask to have it waived.
Sebitha Thomas, pharmacy manager at Blaine’s RiteAid said her store is prepped and ready to dispense the vaccine and that it’s an easy process. “When you come in to get the flu shot, you’ll have to fill out a screening questionnaire,” she said. “And most people are covered by insurance. If you’re not covered, the cost is $29.99.”
For adults, many health plans cover flu vaccines. To find a health care provider or immunization clinic, use the flu vaccine finder at doh.wa.gov, contact your local health agency, or call the Family Health Hotline at 800/322-2588. Information about flu and the flu vaccine is available at doh.wa.gov.