Seasonal Flu Vaccine Not Just For “At-Risk” Anymore

By Cory McLaughlin….
Special Health Education Report to the Opa-locka Review Community Newspaper

The flu season is upon us again and influenza vaccinations have already begun at most of South Florida’s local clinics and pharmacies. If you’re one of the many who hasn’t already taken the shot, you may be wondering if it’s even necessary. Here are some helpful tidbits to consider:

The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issued a press release earlier in the year which recommended that all individuals 6 months or older get the influenza vaccine.

In years past, the CDC had only recommended certain “at-risk” groups for vaccination. The new policy is due, in large part, to the fact that the new 2010-2011 influenza vaccine includes the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. As you might recall, the H1N1 virus resulted in the 2009 global pandemic which affected an estimated 61 million people and accounted for an estimated 12,000 deaths worldwide. With last year’s lessons behind us, the CDC is stalwart in recommending increased preventative measures be taken from now on.

Still, the CDC has identified particular at-risk groups recommended for vaccination:

• Children from 6 months to 5 years of age

• Adults 50 years of age or older

• Pregnant women

• Individuals with chronic health conditions, such as diabetics or those with asthma

• Individuals living in nursing homes or other care facilities

• Caregivers and health care workers

While the CDC admits that we can never be certain of 100% protection from seasonal flu strains, these recommendations are based on extensive research which has determined the effectiveness of the season vaccine for a variety of age groups and medical conditions.

Where can you get the flu vaccine? Most clinics, pharmacies, and even supermarkets now carry the 2010- 2011 vaccine. Medicare, Medicaid, and most health insurance policies cover the cost of a seasonal flu vaccine. However, those without insurance can still purchase the shot for around $30.

This column is presented in collaboration with the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Neighborhood Health Education Learning Program (HELP), which is dedicated to serving the Opa-locka community.

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