ESCANABA - With flu season just around the corner, Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties is having a drive-thru flu immunization clinic today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties parking lot in Escanaba.
"We essentially screen them and give them their shot with their arm right outside of their car," said Jennie Miller, immunization coordinator for Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties. Cost of an immunization is $25 and Medicaid, Medicare, and insurance can be billed at the clinic.
"Flu shots are so readily available in the community right now, but there's not a lot for people who have trouble walking or people who can't stay in line," said Miller. Many seniors like the convenience of a drive-thru clinic, she added.
Ilsa Matthes | Daily Press
Jennie Miller, left, immunization coordinator at Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties, is just one of the people who will be administering flu shots during today’s Drive-Thru Flu Shot Clinic. Visitors to the clinic will not need to leave their cars to be vaccinated.
It is difficult to predict the severity or length of a flu season. Usually flu activity peaks in January or February, but seasons can start as early as October and continue into May.
"Although epidemics of the flu happen every year, the timing severity, and length of the epidemic depends on many factors," said Miller.
Flu vaccines are created using three flu virus strains that are predicted to be common in the coming flu season. One of the factors in determining which strains to use is what versions of the flu virus are common in Australia in the months prior to the American flu season.
"Its the opposite season-wise. They get a little bit of data from what's circulating there," said Miller.
Flu seasons are more severe if the the common virus strains circulating are not the strains in the vaccine. However, a vaccine for a different strain of the virus may still provide a certain amount of protection.
"Even if they don't have the exact, correct strain, usually the strains do provide some cross protection," said Miller.
Influenza vaccinations are recommended for everyone over the age of six months. Pregnant women, people over the age of 65, and people who spend time around people who are at risk for complications from the flu are especially encouraged to get vaccinated.
"Pregnant women are more susceptible to complications, but also you wouldn't want the flu at the time of delivery and pass it on to your baby when they're such a frail newborn," said Miller.
Because the flu vaccine is not administered to children under 6 months of age, parents and family members of small children need to take precautions to prevent spreading the flu to children.
"Unfortunately there's nothing licensed for that age group," said Miller. "That's why it's so important for their caregivers and all the people in their family to be immunized."
People who are over the age of 65 are urged to get the virus because they are more at risk of developing complications from the flu. However, the older a person is the more difficult it is for their body to create antibodies to defend against the flu after they have been vaccinated.
"Even if their immune system is not as great and they don't get as great of a response it still helps prevent death even if it doesn't prevent illness," said Miller.
About 90 percent of the deaths caused by flu during a typical flu season are persons over the age of 65. According to Miller, people age 19-49 are the least likely to get the flu vaccine even though the vaccine is highly effective in that population.
There are two types of influenza vaccines. The flu shot is made of inactivated, or killed, virus strains. The nasal spray is composed of weakened live viruses. Drug manufacturers are planning to produce between 146 million and 149 million doses of the vaccine this year.
This year's flu vaccines are made from a virus from Yamagata lineage of viruses, a H3N2-like virus, and an H1N1-like virus. "It is still the same infamous H1N1 of 2009. They keep putting it in the vaccine because they keep seeing it circulating," said Miller.
The Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties is located at 2920 College Ave., Escanaba. For more information about the flu or to make an appointment for a flu shot on another day call Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties at 786-4111.