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Flu shots now available

The 14 county health departments in the Southwest Georgia Health District are now offering flu vaccines and health officials recommend everyone over six months old get the vaccine.

The flu vaccine is available at $25 per dose and both shots and nasal spray forms of the vaccine are available.

“The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older as the first and best way to protect against influenza,” said Southwest Health District Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

In the United States, the flu season usually begins in October and lasts through May, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It takes the human body about two weeks to develop immunity to the flu after taking the vaccine.

The Decatur County Health Department is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Its phone number is 248-3055. For faster service, appointments can be made by calling the Health Department, but are not required. The vaccine costs $25 per person but can be paid for with cash, checks and many health insurance plans.

The Health Department is also sponsoring a special drive-through flu vaccine event on Friday, Oct. 14 in the parking lot of the Kirbo Center at Bainbridge College. The flu vaccine will be offered between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. on that day, with the $25 charge still applying.

Grant said it’s recommended that people get the flu shot every year, in part because a person’s immune protection declines over time and annual vaccination is needed for optimal protection, she said.

About the flu shot

The flu shots do not contain live viruses and are approved for people ages 6 months and older. Nasal spray vaccine is made with live, weakened flu viruses and is approved for healthy people 2 through 49 who are not pregnant.

Children aged 6 months through 8 years require two doses of influenza vaccine (administered four weeks apart) during their first season of vaccination, Grant said.

Flu vaccine is produced using egg protein, and while reports of severe allergic reactions are rare, she recommended those with egg allergies to discuss with their private healthcare providers whether getting the vaccine is appropriate for them. Among those most at risk of complications from flu are pregnant women, those with chronic diseases, healthcare workers, older adults and the very young, Grant said.

“We strongly urge those who fall into these groups to get the protection they need against influenza.” She said the health departments have an ample supply of vaccine on hand. “We accept cash, checks, Medicaid, Medicare and State Health Benefit plans, United Health Care and Cigna,” she said.

The Southwest Georgia Public Health District is online at www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org and also has a Facebook page.

For more information on the seasonal flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu