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FOR RELEASE: October 13 , 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Health Officials Prepare to Launch Influenza Vaccine Clinics

Officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health are preparing to launch this year’s influenza vaccination clinics at county health departments across the state.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 17, county health departments will offer flu shots for those at highest risk of complications from influenza. For the week beginning Monday, Oct. 24, flu vaccinations will be available for all other persons not considered high risk but who wish to reduce their chances of getting influenza.

Health officials encourage as many Oklahomans as possible to protect themselves from influenza by receiving a flu shot. Typically, Oklahoma’s first case of laboratory confirmed influenza occurs around mid-to-late November. October and November are the best months to get a flu shot so that protection can be provided as early as possible in the influenza season.

Last year’s flu clinics were complicated by a shortage of vaccine. In 2003, influenza was confirmed earlier in the state than expected and reached epidemic proportions by December of that year.

“The predictable fact about influenza season is that it is always unpredictable!” noted Don Blose, chief of the state health department’s Immunization Service.

While the Oklahoma State Department of Health has not yet received all the influenza vaccine it has ordered for this flu season, Blose said he is not worried about a vaccine shortage.

“We will continue to ship vaccine to our county health departments as soon as we get it,” he emphasized, “however, persons should contact their local county health department to make certain flu vaccine is available and to learn the time and location of vaccine clinics.” Vaccine can also be obtained through private health care providers.

Blose stressed that in particular, persons who are considered at high risk from the complications of influenza should get a flu shot, including:

  • Persons aged 65 years and older, with and without chronic health conditions.
  • Residents of long-term care facilities.
  • Persons aged 2 to 64 years of age with chronic health conditions.
  • Children aged 6 months to 23 months.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Health-care personnel who provide direct patient care.
  • Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children 6 months or younger.

FluMist, a nasal-spray flu vaccine, is also an option for healthy persons 5 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Nearly 36,000 Americans die of influenza each year; health officials estimate about 400 to 500 are Oklahomans.

State health officials suggest that persons 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions should ask their doctor if they should be vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, which is a common and potentially serious complication of the flu. Unlike the influenza vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine does not need to be given every year. This vaccine is available at county health departments and private health care providers.

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