Many Health Departments Offering Free Flu Shots

Many Health Departments Offering Free Flu Shots

CREATED Jan 14, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/NewsChannel 5) - Many health departments in Tennessee have begun offering free flu shots in the hopes that more people will get vaccinated.

Some health departments began offering the free shots on Friday, including the Metro Nashville Public Health Department, following a request by Tennessee Health Commissioner, John Dreyzehner, MD, for county health departments to offer the vaccine at no charge.

Free flu shots are available on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., Monday – Friday at all three Metro Public Health Department locations: East Health Center, 1015 East Trinity Lane; Lentz Health Center, 311 23rd Ave. North; and Woodbine Health Center, 224 Oriel Ave.

The number of flu cases has risen in the last few weeks, and the virus has killed 12 people in Middle Tennessee. Health officials said flu season will continue through February, so it's not too late to get a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that this year's vaccine is a good match for the flu strains currently circulating in the U.S.

"In all the lab test being done a lot of the flu they're confirming is H1N1, and the good news is that is in the vaccine," said Brian Todd with the Metro Health Department.

Tennessee Department of Health officials said too many people get sick or die from influenza every year due to avoiding vaccination because of myths and misunderstandings. The two most common rumors are that getting immunized will give you the flu and that influenza vaccines aren't effective.

The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months. The flu vaccine is especially important for people at high risk for serious illness or death from influenza. The elderly, pregnant women and young children, as well as healthcare workers and their family are at most risk.

Health officials said getting the shot doesn't mean you're immediately protected. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective. So good hygiene like hand washing is also really important.

Some other information about the flu the Tennessee Department of Health wants you to know: 

  • Most people with egg allergies can still be immunized. Flu vaccines do have very small amounts of egg protein but routine vaccination is now recognized as safe for people with mild egg allergies, such as hives. Those with egg allergy should discuss vaccination options with their doctor.
  • You need to be immunized every year. The protection from the flu shot or nasal spray diminishes over time, and because the flu strains may vary from year to year, the vaccine is updated annually. This year's flu vaccine appears to be a good match for the strains that are circulating.
  • The flu is not just a severe cold. It has the potential to cause life-threatening illness in people of any age, sometimes very quickly. 
  • Antiviral medications are available and can make influenza illness less severe, if started within 48 hours. Rapid treatment is especially important for pregnant women and others at high risk of complications from flu illness, including the elderly and people with chronic health problems such as heart or lung disease. Your healthcare provider can evaluate the need for treatment; if prescribed, take these medications as directed. 
Officials suggest calling your local health department before visiting to ensure vaccine is still available. A list of county health department locations is available at http://health.state.tn.us/localdepartments.htm.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press/NewsChannel 5.)