Flu vaccines ready

Since the H1N1 pandemic during the 2009-10 flu season, vaccine supply and demand has been an important issue during winter months.

Catawba County suppliers say they recently received doses of the 2011-12 flu vaccine, one that should protect against the influenza B, H1N1 and H3N2 viruses.

Since the virus is always changing, a new strand of the flu could create a virus that requires a new vaccine. Local providers say they have enough of the current vaccine to go around.

“Every year, what the (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) CDC puts out is their best guess estimate of what is going to be the prominent flu type that season,” said Melinda Long, pharmacist at the MediCap Pharmacy in Newton. “You try to be prepared the best you can be, but there’s always the possibility of a new strand coming out that the vaccine doesn’t prevent against.”

MediCap in Newton is one of many suppliers of the 2011-12 flu vaccine this season. MediCap gives the adult vaccine injection for $25.

Though the vaccine may not prevent against new strands that could form, Long said it is very important to protect against known versions of the virus.

“People don’t realize how devastating it can be if you do get the flu if you are compromised,” Long said. “People that are compromised and get the flu can’t just shake it off. Some people don’t take it seriously enough and they should.”

While pharmacies like MediCap only have the adult injection vaccine, other suppliers like Catawba County Public Health have the FluMist nasal spray and high-dose flu vaccines available. The high-dose vaccine is recommended for adults older than 65.

“We see a lot of people 65 and older that come to public health for the high-dose shot,” said Lynn Laws, community health nurse supervisor at Catawba County Public Health. “It’s four times the usual dose. At an age of 65 or older, they typically need a booster.”

Children age 9 and younger also require two vaccinations to provide a booster affect, laws said.

“One of the biggest myths is that you get the flu from the vaccine,” Laws said. “It’s not a live virus, and you do not get the flu from the shot. Your body builds antibodies to that virus.”

The flu shot does not work right away, and it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop and provide protection, according to the CDC.

Since the H1N1 outbreak two years ago, Laws said, more pharmacies and other businesses have provided flu vaccinations and preventive tips – reinforcing the health department’s efforts.

“I think everybody is well-stocked,” Laws said. “The manufacturers have had adequate time to prepare and more people are taking an interest in it.”    

Catawba County Public Health vaccination clinics:

Walk-in flu vaccines will be available from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning Oct. 10. Appointments are required for infants ages 6-35 months and can be made by calling 828-695-5800.

There are also several community clinics scheduled. They are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Senior Health Fair at the Health First Center at Valley Hills Mall; 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 1 at the Health Fair at Rehobeth United Methodist Church in Terrell; and 7-9 a.m. Nov. 10 at a Cholesterol Screening at the Health First Center at Valley Hills Mall.

Seasonal shots are $21, high-dose flu shots $37 and pneumonia shots $65. Cash, check, Medicare Part B and Medicaid will be accepted for payment. Medicare Advantage and other insurance plans will not be accepted, but people may pay and then file with their insurers for possible reimbursement. Children 6 months through 18 years of age who are Medicaid eligible or uninsured will receive the vaccine free.

For more information, contact Catawba County Public Health at 828-695-5800.