Many people waited patiently for their H1N1 (swine) flu vaccination while pregnant women, children, and others at risk of developing complications from influenza received their doses first. Now that H1N1 vaccine is no longer in limited supply, Michigan Department of Community Health has expanded eligibility from "vaccine priority groups" to the general public, including older adults. The vaccinations are available at many doctors' offices, senior centers, and through the Health Department.
Appointments for both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccinations are available at Health Department offices in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties by calling 800-432-4121 during business hours. H1N1 vaccination is free; seasonal flu vaccination is $25 and Medicare and Medicaid are accepted.
In addition, the Health Department is holding four community flu vaccination clinics next week, on Friday, December 18, on a first-come/first-serve basis. From 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, public health nurses will be giving flu shots at four locations: Health Department offices in Bellaire, Petoskey/Harbor Springs, and Gaylord, and at the Charlevoix Public Library. There is no charge for H1N1 flu vaccination; seasonal flu vaccination is $25. Medicare and Medicaid are accepted on site to cover the fee.
Just about everyone age six months and older should get both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine, say public health officials, and children nine and under need two doses of the H1N1 vaccine, about 28 days apart. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & Prevention recommends everyone get vaccinated against the flu except for people who are allergic to eggs, who have had Guillaine-Barre Syndrome, or who have had a reaction to a flu shot in the past.
"Flu season is not over yet," said Linda Yaroch, Deputy Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "There may be another wave of H1N1 flu after the first of the year and we don’t expect seasonal flu season to peak until late February or early March. It’s definitely not too late for a flu shot."
Most people who get the flu recover just fine without medical treatment, Yaroch said. But the illness can be very serious. Michigan Department of Community Health reported today that there have been 56 deaths from flu in the state since September 1, 2009, including four from the "tip of the mitt" region of Michigan.
"We’re working now to prevent another wave of H1N1 flu," she said. "This is the first time in history we have the opportunity to impact the severity of a flu pandemic and vaccination is key to our response,"” Yaroch said. "It’s the best protection against the illness, protecting families, schools, and communities. As we saw with the flu activity in October that caused so many schools to close, flu can be very disruptive."
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 additional information, visit www.nwhealth.org; to schedule appointments for flu vaccinations, call your health care provider or the Health Department at 800-432-4121.