By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The flu season doesn’t officially begin until October, but flu vaccines are already available in Edgecombe County.
“Before you’re exposed, you want to go ahead and get your immunity built up,” said Billie Jo Addington, regional operations administrator for Vidant Medical Group.
Vidant Multispecialty Clinic Tarboro on Friday received a shipment of 5,000 doses of the flu vaccine and 180 doses of the flu mist.
“We’ve got plenty to go around. There is no shortage of the flu vaccine this year,” Addington said.
Last year, Edgecombe County started seeing a peak in flu cases in November, Addington said. That’s earlier than usual; the flu season typically peaks in January or February.
Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October. It takes two weeks to build up full immunity against the flu virus after receiving the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This year’s vaccine protects against three strains of influenza: A, B and H1N1.
“Several H1N1 cases recently reported in our state serve as a good reminder that it's not too early to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Aldona Wos, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary. “Even healthy people can get very sick if they get the flu and nobody wants to be out of work or school for an extended period. It's important to remember that we all can help keep our co-workers and our families healthy by being vaccinated.”
Michelle Etheridge, spokesperson for the Edgecombe County Health Department, said everyone over the age of 6 months is encouraged to get the flu vaccine.
The health department will begin offering flu vaccines on Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on a walk-in basis. The cost is $25 for self-pay patients, and the department will file with clients’ private insurance companies when applicable.
The health department is also collaborating with Vidant Edgecombe Hospital to host an upcoming community flu clinic. The clinic will be held in the hospital parking lot on Sept. 19 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sept. 20 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The cost is $25.
The influenza virus can cause serious illness and even death. During the 2012-2013 flu season, 161 pediatric (childhood and infant) deaths were reported nationwide, according to the CDC.
The flu mist contains a live virus, where the flu vaccine contains a killed virus. A runny nose after having the flu mist and soreness at the injection site after getting the vaccine are possible side effects.
“You might have some mild side effects, but it pales in comparison to what it would be if you actually had the flu,” Addington said.
Those who want to get a flu vaccine at the Vidant Multispecialty Clinic Tarboro do not need an appointment; they can just walk in for screening. The vaccine is covered by many insurance plans. For self-pay patients, the cost is $25.
The influenza virus is an airborne virus, so it’s important to follow certain measures to prevent the spread of the virus: “Good hand washing, covering your cough and sneezes and the basic hygiene that everyone should practice,” Addington said.
The following pharmacies in Tarboro are offering the flu vaccine:
Rite Aid Pharmacy at 1600 N. Main St. is offering the vaccine to walk-in customers. The cost for self-pay patients is $29.99, and the pharmacy also accepts major health insurance plans for payment.
Bryan Drugs is offering flu shots to walk-in customers at both of its locations – 421 N. Main St. and 112 Hospital Dr. Medicare and Blue Cross/ Blue Shield insurance company pay for the vaccine and customers have the option of self-pay, as well.
Thorne Drugs will offer flu vaccines this season. To make an appointment, call the pharmacy’s 1510 N. Main St. store at 823-3849.