By John Toole
---- — Vaccine is plentiful for the unpredicatable flu season ahead, health officials said yesterday.
Pharmacies and doctors already are giving shots, as community flu shot clinics start appearing on the calendar.
“This is really the optimal time to get vaccinated,” said Chris Adamski, chief of the state’s Bureau of Infectious Disease Control.
“People should get their flu shots,” Salem health officer Brian Lockard said. “It’s never too early to get a shot.”
Getting vaccinated now can provide people with protection from the flu for six to nine months, Adamski said.
“Flu activity can peak anytime between October and May,” she said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven’t issued a seasonal outlook and are simply warning that the timing, severity and length of the season varies.
Vaccines this year will protect against three or four viruses.
Manufacturers have said they expect 135 million to 139 million doses to be available. There’s plenty to go around now.
“It appears to be readily available,” Adamski said.
Greater Derry Public Health Network coordinator Garrett Simonsen said he’s seen signs advertising shots at pharmacies.
“Pretty much everywhere I drive, I see signs they are available,” he said.
Adamski recommends consumers check with their doctor and that many pharmacies accept insurance.
Clinics also are starting.
Plaistow health officer Dennise Horrocks said shots are being offered at the senior services fair, in conjunction with Walgreens, a week from today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Plaistow Fish and Game Club, 18 May Ray Ave. People can call Horrocks at 382-2494 for more information.
Community Crossroads, 8 Commerce Drive, Atkinson, will host a free flu shot clinic for seniors, disabled adults and caregivers with Rockingham ServiceLink and Walgreens Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. People have to call 893-9769 to register.
Prices for flu shots vary on the market, as does insurance reimbursement, but Adamski said people can expect to pay $20 to $25.
Besides the traditional shot, Simonsen said people now can opt for a nasal spray or one with a smaller needle.
“Some people may find that an easier option,” Simonsen said.
Health officials recommend anyone over the age of 6 months gets a flu shot. Those especially vulnerable to flu are people younger than 5, older than 65, pregnant women and those suffering from heart and respiratory diseases.
Both the state and federal government will be tracking flu throughout the season and issue regular updates on its severity.