OKLAHOMA CITY – After a record-breaking number of flu deaths in Oklahoma last year, the State Health Department will soon be offering flu shots for free.
Starting October 1st, all county health clinics will offer the vaccine.
Last flu season there were over 291 deaths and over 4,000 hospitalized from the flu.
Now, health department officials are hoping that won’t happen again.
“We just encourage anyone that is 6 months and older to get their annual flu vaccine,” said Gunnar McFadden, The Assistant Deputy Commissioner for The State Health Department.
McFadden says getting your flu shot is simple, but shouldn’t be taken lightly.
After last year’s devastating number of cases across the state, he hopes people don’t underestimate the dangers of the flu.
“It`s important for us because we want to make sure our citizens are vaccinated,” said McFadden. “Last year was an exceptionally high year for the flu so we are wanting to offer this service to the clients to prevent that number from increasing.”
A flu shot is needed every year. That’s because the strains change and mutate each year. And that annual vaccine only lasts for one season.
“We do know that it changes every year, but we`re prepared for that trough this vaccine and we hope we don`t see a repeat of last year’s numbers,” said McFadden.
Along with state health authorities, researchers at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation admit last year’s flu shot was only 10 to 30 percent effective. But they still recommend getting the vaccine. And the earlier the better. While peak flu season runs from December to February, there could be cases as early as September.
Flu shots will be available at local county health departments. They’re free, whether you have health insurance or not.
“We ask them to bring their insurance cards,” said McFadden. “For those that do not have insurance we will be offering a no cost flu vaccine.”
So far, the State Health Department doesn’t have any confirmed cases of the flu.
And if you’re afraid of needles, the nasal spray is available again this year.