Opportunities for free flu vaccines are plentiful in Umatilla County after the flu killed an estimated 80,000 people in the United States last year.
Good Shepherd Health Care System is doing a free clinic on Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the hospital’s conference rooms, 610 NW 11th St., Hermiston. Marketing and communications director Nick Bejarano said the clinic is open to all ages — no insurance required — and will have the specialized doses for infants and the elderly on hand.
Vaccines are also available through primary care providers and are often covered 100 percent by insurance. Good Shepherd administers the vaccine to emergency room patients during flu season. Businesses can also arrange for the hospital to come and host a flu shot clinic for employees.
“Statistically speaking, (the vaccine) is very helpful to prevent the flu,” Bejarano said.
Local pharmacists around the county also offer flu vaccines, including the pharmacies at Walmart, Safeway, Rite Aid and Bi-Mart.
Alisha Southwick, school health and community wellness supervisor for Umatilla County Public Health, said people can get the flu shot wherever is most convenient for them — the important thing is that they get the shot.
The public health department encourages people to get the vaccine through their pharmacist or primary care provider but the department does have regular flu vaccines for adults and children on hand. People should call ahead and make an appointment, but the Hermiston office at 435 E Newport St. is taking walk-ins on Oct. 26.
Southwick said children and the elderly are most at risk of serious complications from the flu, and she highly encourages they get a vaccine before flu season gets into full swing.
“We don’t know what this season will bring,” she said.
According to the Associated Press, last year’s season was particularly deadly. About 80,000 Americans died, compared with 12,000 to 56,000 in a normal year. The flu can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other deadly complications.
The flu vaccine is more effective some years than others, because scientists developing each year’s vaccine have to guess which strains will take off. But even in less effective years, people who get the vaccine are statistically less likely to get the flu and usually have more mild symptoms. The vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective, so doctors recommend not waiting until friends, family and co-workers are already sick.