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JBSA News
NEWS | Sept. 22, 2011

Clinic gears up for flu season with vaccine

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

It's been a long, hot summer in Texas - the hottest for any U.S. state since temperatures have been recorded - but fall is finally here, at least according to the calendar, and cooler weather will prevail.

Concurrent with the coming of fall, which most people anxiously await, is the equally inevitable arrival of flu season, which no one welcomes.

The flu is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus that can be spread by coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But people need not suffer the symptoms associated with the flu - from a fever, a nasty cough and a sore throat to muscle aches and a runny or stuffy nose - when they can prevent them with the administration of the flu vaccine, Randolph Medical Clinic health care professionals said.

"As a public health measure, it's important for everyone age 6 months and older without a contraindication to the flu vaccine to receive it," Dr. (Capt.) Cheryll Clark, 359th Medical Operations Squadron pediatrician, said. "The CDC recommends that people receive their flu vaccine as soon as it is available so they may develop protection against disease."

Clark said an early immunization is also prudent because flu season has no official starting date.

"Flu season can be unpredictable," she said. "It can begin as early as October, but it usually peaks in January or February."

Clark said the Randolph Medical Clinic already has a majority of its stock of this year's vaccine, which protects against three strains of the virus - H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B.

Department of Defense policy requires immunization of all active-duty and Air Reserve Component personnel against influenza. If they are on full-time military status at an installation with a medical treatment facility, they must receive their flu vaccine through the MTF.

The Randolph clinic can also accommodate TRICARE beneficiaries, but 1st Lt. Tiffany McMackin, 359th Medical Support Squadron TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration Flight commander, said it may be more convenient for them to receive their immunization at an off-base pharmacy, where they can also go on weekends and weekday evenings.

"They can get their immunization at no cost at a TRICARE network retail pharmacy," she said. "They are encouraged to see if their local pharmacy is part of the network."

McMackin said TRICARE beneficiaries who receive the flu vaccine at a local pharmacy should hand-carry, scan and email or fax their immunization record to the Randolph clinic. Beneficiaries can email their record to UDG_359MDG_359MDGImmunization@us.af.mil. If they fax it, they should first call 652-3279, then fax it to 652-3111.

Clark said it's important that people are immunized every year "because your immunity against influenza wanes over time." The vaccine comes in injectable and nasal-spray forms. The nasal-spray vaccine is an option for healthy patients between 2 and 49 years old.

"Even healthy people may suffer from the effects of influenza," Clark said. "However, vaccination is especially recommended for high-risk people to include pregnant women, children under 2 years, people over 50 years old and people with chronic medical problems.

"When the vaccine is well-matched to the strains that are prevalent, the effectiveness ranges from 70 to 90 percent," she continued. "The most common side-effects are pain at the injection site, fever, sore throat and a runny nose."

Clark said she encourages everyone "to make their health a priority by getting the flu vaccine this season."