Pretty much everybody knows that getting an annual influenza vaccine protects them from getting influenza- but fewer people realize that getting vaccinated saves other people’s lives as well. That’s because if a large percentage of the population takes advantage of the vaccine (called herd immunity) we can reduce the overall spread of the disease- and save the lives of vulnerable folks that don’t benefit as much from getting the vaccine (because their immune system isn’t as robust).
This year we have a unique opportunity to pull off very high vaccination rates. That’s because there will be gobs of vaccine available this season (166,000,000 doses nationally) and the logistics have never been easier. This is the first flu season that certified AZ pharmacists can give shots to everybody over 6 years old (even without a prescription)- meaning that everybody in the family over 6 can get vaccinated at local pharmacies this year- avoiding inconvenient doctor’s appointments for families.
There’s also a wider variety of vaccines to choose from this season. Of course, there’s the classic influenza vaccine with the needles which is approved for everyone 6 months and above. There’s also a nasal spray for healthy non-pregnant people aged 2-49, and a new “micro-needle array” vaccine (that looks kind of like a band-aid) for people 18-64. Plus, this is the first year we’ve had a new “high dose” influenza vaccine for seniors (65 and up) that provides for a better immune response and protection. This year’s vaccine is a perfect match for the circulating strains in the Southern Hemisphere (at least so far), meaning that it should provide good protection.
In years past- we spent a lot of time helping folks find flu shot locations- but that’s not as necessary these days because so many pharmacies are providing vaccine now. Check out location information and other public health stuff about the flu at www.stopthespreadaz.org.
State employees can get a free flu shot through the Benefit Options vaccine program again this fall. Influenza vaccination clinics will be held throughout October and November- and you can find times and locations on the new ADOA influenza vaccine website. For flu clinic schedules or information regarding the status of the 2011 flu vaccine program throughout the flu season visit: www.benefitoptions.az.gov/wellness.