With flu season almost upon the U.S., state health officials are encouraging the public to get their annual flu shot.
Starting this Wednesday, uninsured adults can avail a free anti-flu shot at the Springfield Flu Coalition to protect as many people as possible from the virus. The coalition is built on the partnership among several concerned health groups including CoxHealth, the Greene County Medical Society and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.
The coalition will provide free flu vaccines through free clinics based on a schedule that they released in the news. They urge uninsured to get their shots and for those covered, including those insured by Medicare, to contact health care providers to know which preventive measures are covered by their care plans.
Health experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting the vaccine for everyone six months old and above, especially for young children, older adults, pregnant women and immunocompromised patients.
"Flu is a serious illness," said Dr. Lisa Grohskopf of CDC's influenza division. "Most people are going to feel very ill...then get better without any bad things happening. But we can't predict who is going to get super sick."
Despite the availability of vaccines, more than 200,000 people still get flu during the infection's peak season, and most of them get sent to the hospital due to complications. While death rates due to flu vary, CDC was able to record nearly 50,000 deaths due to the virus in one year.
Keeping up with immunization is important in preventing the spread of flu because the prevalent flu virus can easily change, much so that there had been recorded incidents of current immunizations for the season were ineffective against the reigning virus strain.
"Last year, the vaccine offered little protection against (the prevalent) H3N2 (flu) virus because...the new H3N2 virus was not included." Grohskopf said. "This mismatch caused a severe flu season...and led to a record number of hospitalizations."
This year's flu shot contains the after mentioned new strain as well as other two that are predicted to be predominant this season. Manufacturers are expected produce more than 170 million doses to cover as many Americans as they can.
It will take about two weeks before immunity from the flu can be built upon injection.
Photo: Yuya Tamai | Flickr