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Seasonal flu clinics begin

Flu shots available throughout community

Spectrum Health is offering the flu vaccine in multiple locations throughout the community in the coming weeks, to encourage as many residents as possible to protect themselves from seasonal influenza.

Starting this month, the Spectrum Health Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) is offering over 200 community flu shot clinics. Flu shots are also available on a walk-in basis at the five Spectrum Health Urgent Care Centers from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Spectrum Health Medical Group primary care providers are offering the vaccine on an appointment basis.

“We all need to make an effort to protect our families and our community from the negative health and productivity impacts of influenza,” said Richard S. Rasmussen, MD, preventive medicine specialist, Spectrum Health. “Good hygiene, avoiding close contact with others and staying home when you’re sick will help prevent the spread of the disease. Immunization provides the best protection.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), flu vaccinations are recommended for people at high risk for complications from the flu, including:

  • Children ages six months to their 19th birthday
  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities

Flu  shots area also recommended for people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:

  • Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than six months of age, as these children are too young to be vaccinated
  • Health care workers

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu shots are particularly important for pregnant women. A study published September 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that when a pregnant woman receives a flu shot at least a month before her due date, her baby will have a high degree of immunity to the flu for the first six months of life.

Recent outbreaks of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, have elevated concerns about this year’s seasonal flu. The current vaccine for seasonal flu does not provide protection against H1N1. More information about the H1N1 vaccine and how it will be distributed is expected in the next few weeks. More information about H1N1 is available through the CDC.

Individuals with questions about the seasonal flu vaccine or the H1N1 vaccine can call the Spectrum Health Flu Helpline at (616) 486-3939 or visit spectrum-health.org/flu for locations and times. No appointment is needed.

The cost of this year’s seasonal flu vaccine is $30 at most locations; $35 at primary care providers. Cash and checks are accepted forms of payment at VNA clinics. Cash, checks and credit cards can be used at Spectrum Health Medical Group locations and Urgent Care Centers. Some insurance companies cover some or all of the cost of the vaccine. VNA offers a mist inhaler as an alternative to the injection for $35. Preservative-free flu shots are available through VNA, but must be scheduled by appointment by calling (616) 486-3050.

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