Health officials promote early flu shots

Nancy Barker gives Katie Hicks a flu shot as Dr. Roger Case looks on. - Michaela Marx Wheatley / The Record
Nancy Barker gives Katie Hicks a flu shot as Dr. Roger Case looks on.
— image credit: Michaela Marx Wheatley / The Record

Whidbey Island faced a serious whooping cough outbreak this summer — an epidemic that could have been prevented with a tiny poke of a needle.

With flu season just around the corner, Island County Health officials are wondering if Whidbey residents have learned their lesson.

“Immunization is good for you, but it’s also good for the community,” said Dr. Roger Case, Island County health officer. He added that one benefit is that people don’t get sick, but they also won’t make others sick with the flu.

Communicable disease coordinator Katie Hicks agrees. Her father is fighting cancer and she doesn’t want to put him at risk.

“I want to make sure I get the flu shot so I can make sure I don’t unknowingly get my dad sick while he’s in chemo,” Hicks said.

The Island County Health Department, local pharmacies and stores will hold immunization clinics for people to get their flu shots.

Case said its important to get the shots now to allow enough time to build antibodies before the flu season hits in November and December.

More than 36,000 people die in the U.S. each year from the flu; 90 percent are elderly.

While not necessarily the ones at the highest risk to suffer complication from the flu, children are on top of the list for flu shots.

“They are the people that spread diseases around,” Case said. That’s why parents are encouraged to get them vaccinated.

People who face the most serious consequences are those who have the most trouble fighting the disease.

“We especially encourage the immune-impaired, the elderly and all those due for routine immunizations to stay current with their immunizations,” Case said. “Influenza immunizations are really for everyone.”

People can pass on the flu without showing symptoms. That’s why caregivers or people who get in contact with at-risk people should get vaccinated, said public health nurse Nancy Barker. People with serious illnesses should consult with a doctor, and people who are allergic to eggs should not get flu shots.

She also said there is a common misconception that flu shots will make you sick.

“Some people say ‘I’m not getting a flu shot because I don’t want the flu. Flu shots don’t cause the flu. It’s a dead virus,” she said.

Case said it’s necessary to refresh flu shots each year because the strains change each season and vaccines are adjusted each year.

“There are two new strains in the vaccine this year,” Case added.

Flu-shot clinics are held this year in Oak Harbor, Wednesday, Oct. 15 at LDS Church; Freeland, Thursday, Oct. 23 at Trinity Lutheran Church; Coupeville, Thursday, Oct. 30 at United Methodist Church; and in Clinton, Thursday, Nov. 20 at Clinton Community Hall.

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