Walk-in Wednesdays at Parkland health centers make access easier
The days are getting shorter and the temperatures cooler, so it’s time to make sure you and your family are vaccinated against the flu.
Health experts stress that the best way to lessen the chances of getting the flu is still the vaccine. While most people who get the flu recover, it can be a serious illness for some, especially the very young and older adults. And, the severity of flu season can vary; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths associated with the flu over the past 31 seasons have ranged from 3,300 a year to 49,000. Anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population is affected by the flu virus every season.
“It is especially important that children be vaccinated against the flu,” said Cesar S. Termulo Jr., MD, Senior Lead Staff Physician at Hatcher Station Health Center, one of Parkland Health & Hospital System’s Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) health centers. “Not only are young children more at risk of developing complications from the flu, they also are more likely to spread it, especially to older adults in their families.”
Parkland’s COPCs will offer flu vaccines as part of the Walk-In Wednesday’s campaign. Dallas County residents can get flu vaccines without having to make an appointment from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday throughout the fall and winter months. If they prefer, people can call 214.266.4000 to schedule an appointment.
One big change this year, especially for those who fear the needle, is that the FluMist will not be an option. The American Academy of Pediatrics earlier this year withdrew its recommendation of FluMist, based on findings by the CDC that the mist is nowhere near as effective as the shot. In fact, a CDC committee found that FluMist had essentially been ineffective the past three seasons.
Research continues into why FluMist has not been as effective, but for now the injection vaccine is the way to go. Although pharmacies and other flu providers have been calling on people to get their flu vaccines since August, it certainly is not too late to get it now.
Parkland experts remind Dallas County residents that the flu season, which generally starts in October, continues into March and even later. So if you want to avoid the misery flu can bring, it’s time to get that vaccine.
The CDC recommends that all persons aged 6 months and older should be vaccinated each year. And in addition to the elderly and the very young, it also is important for pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems to get vaccinated.
Major organizations such as the CDC, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine encourage pregnant women to get vaccinated.
“Some women fear that the vaccine will adversely affect their babies, but research has shown that there are health benefits for unborn babies and those benefits continue for up to six months,” Dr. Termulo said. “Flu shots have not been shown to cause harm to the mothers or their unborn children. And while newborn babies cannot get the flu vaccine, they are very susceptible to influenza infection. Pregnant women and family members can protect themselves and their newborn infants by getting the flu vaccine.”
In addition, people at high risk for flu complications include those with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, HIV infection, cancer, history of stroke, adults 65 and older, and those who have family members at high risk.
Influenza complications include pneumonia, MRSA infection, increased risk of heart attack and heart failure, and involvement of the brain.
Health experts also offer several tips to help reduce the risk of catching the flu:
• Keep your distance from others who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick so that you don’t pass the virus to others.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to help keep from spreading germs.
• Clean your hands often using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
Parkland accepts insurance, including Medicaid/Chip and Medicare. All children will be assessed to determine if they are eligible for the Texas Vaccines for Children's immunization program. Patients who are enrolled in the Parkland Financial Assistance (PFA) program can get their vaccines covered at no or low cost. PFA members will be responsible for their payment dependent on the PFA level. For persons without health insurance, Parkland can provide financial screening.
To find the Parkland COPC health center nearest you, visit www.parklandhospital.com/locations