"It's tragic that so many children died from a virus that has a safe and effective vaccine," said Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "Many of these deaths could have been prevented through vaccination. We say, 'Everyone. Every year' because everyone age six months old and up should get an annual seasonal flu vaccine."
Infants younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated. Meyerson says to protect them from the dangers of influenza by making sure parents, siblings, grandparents, babysitters, and anyone in close contact with infants are fully vaccinated. It's also important for pregnant women to get vaccinated against the flu, as the vaccine protects both the mother and unborn baby.
The good news is that there are a number of places where children--and adults--can get the flu vaccine. The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is launching a series of Community Immunization Clinics next week, in partnership with several school districts. In addition to seasonal flu shots and nasal flu mist, many other immunizations will be available. To schedule an appointment at any of the Community Immunization Clinics scheduled in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, or Otsego counties, call the Health Department of Northwest Michigan at 800-432-4121 during regular business hours.
The charge for flu vaccine at Health Department clinics is $25; charges for additional vaccines vary. "We can bill Medicare, Medicaid, and several private health insurance companies for immunizations," said Pat Fralick, the Health Department's Director of Family & Community Health. Fralick said the Health Department does not turn away anyone age 18 or younger for inability to pay for immunizations required for school. She noted anyone under age 18 must have their parent or guardian accompany them for immunizations.
Fralick highly recommends making appointments at the Community Immunization Clinics. "We do quite a lot of preparation to make sure people can get in and out as quickly as possible," she said. "When we know how many are coming, we can bring plenty of vaccine and have adequate nursing staff. We can also identify any other vaccines individuals may need by checking Michigan Care Improvement Registry in advance and give them at that same appointment.""Not only is it important for our patients to get vaccinated, but it's also critical that physicians and other health care providers get vaccinated," said Meyerson. "Annual immunization of health care professionals protects employees, their families, and their patients, and it may reduce influenza-related deaths among persons at high risk for complications from influenza."
"Getting a flu vaccine is easy, and it is the first and most important step you can take in protecting yourself and your loved ones from getting the flu," said Meyerson. "While flu seasons are unpredictable, flu vaccination is the single best way to protect against influenza, especially for those under 5 years of age."
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.
For more information about flu vaccine, visit www.cdc.gov/flu. To schedule an appointment at a Community Immunization Clinic, call the Health Department at 800-432-4121 during regular business hours.