Staff Sgt. Alisha Slone, 359th Medical Group NCO in charge of immunizations, inspects an influenza vaccine Sept. 30, 2014, at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Medical Clinic. The influenza vaccine protects against the main influenza viruses that research suggests will be the most common during that influenza season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (U.S. Air Force photos by Airman 1st Class Stormy Archer/Released) (Photo by Airman st Class Stormy ArcherReleased)
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
With the return of flu season, 359th Medical Group members at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph have begun the process to immunize active-duty members and other TRICARE beneficiaries with the current influenza vaccine.
The immunization clinic in building 1040 is open for administration of the flu vaccine 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. No appointment is necessary.
"We recommend that people receive their flu vaccines as early in the season as possible," Lt. Col. (Dr.) Yi Yang, 359th Medical Operations Squadron immunization clinic medical director, said.
It's also important to come to the immunization clinic as early in the day as possible, Staff Sgt. Alisha Slone, 359th MDG Immunization Clinic technician, said.
"We've started to get busy, so a long wait is possible," she said. "Early in the morning is a good time to come."
The 359th MDG is also administering the vaccine at the workplaces of first responders, including security forces and firefighters, and beneficiaries at mission partners such as Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Personnel Center and 12th Flying Training Wing squadrons on a rotating basis this month, Slone said.
In addition, tables will be set up for the administration of the flu vaccine at the JBSA-Randolph Exchange main entrance 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 23-24 and in the medical clinic's pharmacy waiting area 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 27-31.
If JBSA-Randolph clinic beneficiaries are immunized at a civilian pharmacy, they should provide the clinic with documentation of the vaccines to ensure accurate records, Slone said.
A yearly flu vaccine - available in both injectable and nasal-spray form - is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older except those who have a severe allergy to any part of the vaccine, Yang said.
The nasal-spray vaccine is an option for healthy people ages 2 to 49, Slone said.
"Flu mist is recommended because it gives more protection from influenza," she said.
The flu vaccine protects against the main flu viruses that research suggests will be the most common during that flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The three main virus strains this year - the H1N1 and H3N2 influenza A viruses and influenza B viruses - are the same as last year's, Yang said.
Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue as late as May, but it commonly peaks in the United States between December and February, according to the CDC.
An annual flu vaccine is important for two reasons, Yang said.
"The vaccine builds up immunity - the antibody level in the system - to prevent development of influenza," he said. "In case you actually get influenza, you will have fewer symptoms.
"Also, with the development of antibodies in the system, you will be less likely to carry the influenza virus to spread the virus and affect other people."
Because the influenza virus can be spread by coughing, sneezing and nasal secretions, Yang also recommends practicing good personal hygiene.
People should wash their hands often, cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.