OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – County health departments and health care providers throughout Oklahoma will begin offering seasonal flu vaccinations starting Thursday, Oct. 1.
“Almost everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year. It is an effective way to prevent flu illness and another great tool for mitigating the impacts of COVID-19,” an Oklahoma State Department of Health news release states.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that community members become vaccinated by the end of October, before the flu starts spreading across communities.
“The flu vaccine can keep a person from getting the flu and make the illness less severe if a person gets it,” the news release states.
The CDC worked with flu vaccine manufactures to ensure that extra vaccines will be available this flu season. State health officials will distribute 400,000 flu vaccine doses to ensure that affordable or free flu shots are available, according to the news release.
OSDH officials say that 3,580 Oklahomans were hospitalized because of flu-related illnesses last flu season. That number includes 383 children under age four and 85 Oklahomans who died from the flu. Of those who died, three were children under age 17.
The flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19, but it will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system, therefore conserving limited medical resources for the care of COVID-19 patients.
“It is critically important this year that every Oklahoman who can get the flu shot does so right away,” said Health Commissioner Lance Frye, MD. “This is a great method of preventing the spread of influenza in our communities, and I urge Oklahomans to take this proactive step.”
Children through age 18 can receive free vaccines through the Vaccines for Children program if they meet any of the following qualifications:
- Medicaid eligible
- Native American Indian
- Native Alaskan
- Their insurance policy does not cover vaccines
Insured adults and children can receive free flu shots at their health care provider or a local pharmacy.
Community members can often get a flu shot at the following places:
- County health departments
- Doctor’s office
- Retail and grocery stores
- Community health centers
“Where people get their flu shot this year may need to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many places follow strict guidelines to create a safe environment for the community. It is easy to find a flu vaccine available at different providers at VaccineFinder.org,” the news release states.
While a flu shot is a strong safeguard against the flu, it is not a guarantee. OSDH officials ask community members to take the following actions to protect themselves from becoming sick with the flu:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Outside your home, put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
- Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Stay home from work, school, and other public places if you are ill. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Make “respiratory hygiene” a habit, including use of tissues to cover coughs and sneezes, then disposing of them and washing hands at once. When tissues are not readily available, use your sleeve, never your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of respiratory illness and take your temperature if symptoms develop. Call your health care provider for advice if you are experiencing symptoms.
Please call (405) 271-7200 or visit fightflu.health.ok.gov for more information.