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Heads up: Time to get that flu shot

By: Bruce Warren, Journal Staff Writer
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It’s time to prepare for flu season and both Placer County Community Health and Raley’s offer residents the opportunity to get their flu vaccine. For the Oct. 16 drive-through clinic at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, you don’t even have to leave your car. Just pull into the fairgrounds at the Fairgate Road entrance off Auburn Folsom Road, and qualified nurses and health employees will assist you. Flu vaccine shots will cost from $10 to $20 based on income. For those seniors who have Medicare Part-B and present their Medicare cards, there will be no charge. To get free shots, the individuals must not be enrolled in any HMO plan. According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, certain individuals who are at greater risk of getting getting the flu are adults 50 and over, women pregnant during the flu season, all children 16 months to 18 years old, nursing home residents, healthcare workers with direct patient care and those with chronic medical conditions. “Getting a flu shot is an excellent way to reduce your chances of getting the flu,” said Dr. Mark Starr, director of Placer County Community Health and Clinics Division. “Seasonal flu can be a very serious disease for those at greatest risk, and on average 35,000 Americans die of seasonal flu each year.” Internet and newspaper stories have warned of vaccine dangers from vaccines that may contain Themersol, which according to Starr does have a “normal amount of mercury and it was used as a preservative,” he said. However, all flu shots offered by Placer County Community Health are Themersol free, Starr said. “There was no proven problem with it (Themersol),” Starr said. “If they have any allergies to eggs, they should discuss getting the vaccine with their physician. The virus for the vaccine is literally grown in eggs. It’s then purified and the virus is killed. Then, there’s no longer egg in the vaccine but there may be some residual.” Children younger than 9 will need a booster shot and will receive the same vaccine as adults. “They need a booster because we don’t know if they’ve been exposed to the flu before. It’s a very safe vaccine,” Starr said. Maryellen Rota, director of strategy with Sutter Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice, said the CDC identifies new viruses each year. “The CDC identified three new strains of virus this year,” Rota said. “Every year they research what the viruses might be. They are confident that the vaccines will protect against the virus that the CDC believes is causing flu this year.” Starr is convinced the vaccine has preventative value. “The greatest value of the vaccine is that it can prevent the flu for many people, but it will reduce how serious the illness is for everyone,” Starr said. Seniors are particularly at risk. Placer County Community Health will also offer flu shots from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 13 and Dec. 9 at the MultiPurpose Senior Center on E Avenue, where Barbara Crowell is executive director. “Every year we give them (Community Health) a free room to give their flu shots,” Crowell said. “We had a couple hundred here in one day last year. If they can’t go to the Senior Health Fair on Oct. 22, then they come here.” Auburnite Gladys Brown-Korf, 84, gets regular flu shots and has already received her shot this year at Auburn Sutter Faith hospital, where she is a guild member. “I’ve gotten a flu shot every year for years and I’ve never gotten the flu,” she said. The Journal’s Bruce Warren can be reached at brucew@goldcountrymedia.com, or comment online at Auburnjournal.com.