By Claire Ninde
Special to The SUN
Flu season officially started on Sept. 29 this year and San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) urge everyone ages 6 months and older to get vaccinated, ideally before the end of October.
“We don’t know how serious flu season will be,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state communicable disease epidemiologist. “We do know that getting the flu can keep you out of work or school or put you in the hospital. Getting a flu shot every year can prevent that or lessen the severity if you do become ill.”
Flu cases start to increase in October and typically peak in late December or early January before dropping off in the spring. Since it takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, October is the ideal time to get your flu shot.
“Every year, flu vaccines are updated to best match circulating flu viruses,” said Lynn Trefren, Immunization Branch manager at the state health department. “We recommend any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine, including the nasal spray vaccine, which is back this year.”
“While healthy people normally recover from the flu, getting a shot keeps you from spreading the virus to people 65 and older, children under 5, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions,” Herlihy said. “And since babies under 6 months can’t get the vaccine, it’s up to us all to protect them.”
SJBPH encourages people to see their doctor for their flu shots. To find flu vaccines at retail outlets, visitvaccinefinder.org. SJBPH offers a range of flu vaccines, including:
• High-dose quadrivalent flu shot — Recommended for adults 65 years old older, and other at-risk adults.
• Quadrivalent flu shot — Recommended for all children and adults.
• Egg-free flu shot — Recommended for those with a severe egg allergy.
SJBPH offers vaccines for uninsured children and adults at a reduced price; patients with Medicaid; Medicare and other private insurance, including Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, United and Rocky Mountain Healthcare.
The state health department recommends:
• In addition to getting a flu vaccine every year, adults 65 and older should check whether they have had a pneumococcal vaccine. There are two flu vaccines specifically for persons 65 and older; people can talk to their doctors about which vaccine is best for them.
• Children who are younger than 9 years who are getting the flu vaccine for the first time, and those under 9 who have only previously gotten one dose of the vaccine, should get two doses of the vaccine. The first dose should be given as soon as vaccine becomes available. The second dose should be given at least 28 days after the first dose.
• Pregnant women have more serious complications if they get the flu and should be vaccinated before the end of October.
To stay informed, visit CDPHE’s flu web page. For questions regarding flu vaccine options and vaccine appointments at SJBPH, contact the agency at 247-5702.
By Claire Ninde