In response to a nationwide shortage the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) has consolidated 13 flu shot clinics into seven high-risk clinics.
HHSA Director Ray Bullick said in a released statement last week that the decision to consolidate was made to "maximize the distribution of available vaccine to high-risk individuals." Based on criteria from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), individuals who are considered high risk include:
Exeter's flu shot clinic, originally scheduled from 1-2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at the Exeter First Baptist Church, has been canceled along with clinics in Farmersville, Three Rivers, Ivanhoe, Springville and Cutler/Orosi. Residents in those community who meet the above criteria will have to attend a clinic in one of the seven remaining clinics:
The Exeter Senior Center van and Dial-A-Ride will be available to take senior citizens to and from the clinics on Nov. 5 in Woodlake and Lindsay and on Nov. 8 in Visalia. Both will pick up at your home with advance notice. For the Senior Center van call 594-0055. For Dial-A-Ride call 592-8100.
Qualifying individuals attending these clinics will be required to show proof of their age and residency in Tulare County. Shots are free to high-risk individuals. All Medicare recipients must present their card.
Influenza season typically peaks in the United States between December and March, according to the CDC. Because each season is unpredictable, it’s not known how severe the 2004-2005 season might be. Some of the complications caused by flu include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children may get sinus problems and ear infections as complications from the flu. Those aged 65 years and older and persons of any age with chronic medical conditions are at highest risk for serious complications of flu.
Each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5 percent to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu.
HHSA has also canceled its Bioterrorism Mock Drill. Scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 21, HHSA had planned to stage a the drill to test mass vaccination capabilities by administering the flu vaccine to county employees and volunteers from the International Agri-Center, local hospitals, health care clinics, school nurses and Red Cross workers. The county's staff had been working for the last year on the formulation of County's smallpox vaccination plan as part of its overall bioterrorism plan.
Because of the shortage, the county is saving the flu vaccine for only those people who have weak immune systems. Anyone who does not meet the requirements of "at-risk" should contact their doctor for a flu shot. However, the CDC recommends those people avoid getting a flu shot this season to save the vaccine for those who need it.
Short of receiving the flu vaccine, Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Danae Hansen said individuals can take these preventative measures to minimize their chances of getting the flu or passing it on to someone else:
For information, call the Tulare County HHSA Information and Referral Line toll-free at 1-800-834-7121.