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Flu vaccine available throughout Washington state
Flu vaccine is available throughout the state, with plenty of time to spare before flu season arrives, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).
"Now's the time to get a flu shot so you're protected all season long," said State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. "Vaccine is the best protection we have against the flu. Getting it now, before people around you start getting sick, will protect you through the flu season, which usually peaks in January but starts earlier."
The DOH recommends that anyone over the age of six months should get the vaccine. Children, people over 65, pregnant women, parents of newborns and people with medical conditions like asthma should get the vaccine, according to the DOH. Different types of flu vaccine are available, with a high-dose vaccine available for those 65 and older, and a nasal spray vaccine for healthy people ages 2-49. Also, there's a vaccine that can be given through a much smaller needle than the regular vaccine, according to the DOH.
This year's vaccine protects against three strains of the flu virus. The DOH notes that it doesn't protect against the H3N2 variant that has occurred elsewhere in the country. Most of the cases involving that strain seem to be from direct contact with pigs at county fairs, and so far, there have been no reported cases in Washington state.
"Using good health manners like washing your hands, covering your cough, and staying home when you're sick can help keep flu away and other respiratory illnesses, like whooping cough," Hayes said. "Remember, we still have a whooping cough epidemic in our state."
The state purchased more than 721,000 doses of flu vaccine for children, according to the DOH. The flu vaccine, along with the whooping cough vaccine, tDap, are available to children through age 18 at no cost.
The DOH notes there may be some small fees for receiving the flu vaccine, such as an office fee and an administrative fee. Those who can't afford the administration fee can ask to have it waived. The DOH also notes that many health plans cover flu vaccines under preventative care.
Those in need of a health care provider or immunization clinic can call the Family Health Hotline at (800) 322-2588 or can visit the DOH's website at www.doh.wa.gov.