Flu season is upon us, and this year there is something new for those who are needle shy.
A new type of influenza vaccine that is sprayed up the nose has been approved for use by the agency that does so, but will only be offered by private practices and one pharmacy in Lodi.
Lodi Memorial Hospital and the San Joaquin County Public Health Services will offer the traditional needle version of the vaccine.
Who should get a flu shot?
• People age 50 years or older.
• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house people of any age who have long-term illnesses.
• Adults and children age 6 months or older who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma.
• Adults and children age 6 months or older who need regular medical care or had to be in a hospital because of metabolic diseases (like diabetes), chronic kidney disease, or weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicine or by infection with human immunodeficiency virus.
• Children and teenagers (aged 6 months to 18 years) who are on long-term aspirin therapy and therefore could develop Reye Syndrome after the flu.
• Women who will be more than 3 months pregnant during the flu season.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site (www.cdc.gov).
Who shouldn't get a flu shot?
• People who are have a severe allergy to hen and chicken eggs.
• People who have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past.
• People who previously developed Guillain Barre syndrome in the six weeks after getting a flu shot.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site (www.cdc.gov).
Where will flu shots be available?
Lodi Memorial Hospital will hold a flu shot drive-through at Lodi Lake from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24. The cost will be $10 per shot.
Galt Medical Services, 387 Civic Dr., Galt, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 14, (LMH walk-in).
Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins St., from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 29 (LMH walk-in).
Ham Lane Urgent Care Clinic, 1235 W. Vine St., 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 1, 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 5, and 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 12 (LMH walk-in).
Grocery Outlet, 215 E. Lodi Ave. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to noon Nov. 1 (Sutter VNA and Hospice, $20 flu shots, $25 for pneumonia).
Galt Supermarket, 814 A St., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (Sutter VNA and Hospice, $20 flu shots, $25 for pneumonia).
Longs Drug Store, 1063 C St., 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 16 (Sutter VNA and Hospice, $20 flu shots, $25 for pneumonia).
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a potentially deadly virus. An average of about 36,000 people die every year in the United States from the flu and 114,000 are admitted to a hospital for treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's affecting a large number of people," CDC spokeswoman Ronda Smith said Tuesday. "That's why we advise everyone to get flu vaccines every year."
The season typically begins in early and mid-October, is heaviest in January and February, and lasts through spring. CDC and most health agencies advise getting a flu shot now or within the next few weeks to be immunized for the season. Those who received a shot last year in August or September may not still be immunized for the whole winter.
People of all ages can catch the flu and most people will come down with the flu at least once in their life. While most people recover from the disease in one to two weeks, some can develop pneumonia or other more serious health effects.
Every year, several public and private agencies offer immunizations with vaccines.
Vaccines are mild forms of the flu virus given to people so that their immune systems can develop crucial antibodies to the more dangerous kind. Three companies produce the flu vaccine which is developed from three different strains of viruses.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decides which strains will be used in flu vaccines every year. The committee consists of 15 international experts who are selected by the U.S. Department of Health Services to provide guidelines.
This year, strains from New Caledonia (a territory of France), Panama and Hong Kong have been used in the vaccines, and the company Medimmune Vaccines has created a new vaccine called FluMist that can be sprayed up the nose for those who are needle-squeamish.
In Lodi, FluMist can be bought at Lakewood Drugs beginning Oct. 9. The price for the product there is $55. The new vaccine will be available for anyone above 5 years of age and will be available for administration by pharmacists there, said Dennis McComb, a pharmacist at Lakewood.
The other two traditional flu vaccines approved for use by the ACIP are Fluzone, produced by the company Aventis Pasteur Inc., and Fluvirin, made by Evans.
Evans is a subsidiary of Powerject Pharmaceuticals based in the United Kingdom and, according to Powerject's Web site, is the sixth-largest vaccine manufacturer in the world. Powerject is owned by the Chiron Corp., based out of Emeryville. Aventis Pasteur is based out of Swiftwater, Pa.
The CDC has estimated that all three companies will produce 85.5 million doses of influenza vaccine this year and that there will be no shortages similar to two years ago.
Of the two traditional vaccines, Fluzone is the only vaccine recommended to be used on children age 6 months to 35 months. Fluzone develops a vaccine that does not include thimerosal, a preservative, thought by some to be potentially harmful to younger children. Fluvirin is licensed for children 4 years of age and older.
"There is some debate over whether (the preservative) builds up in the blood level of children and there has been some concern about developmental delays," said Nisha Gandhi, coordinator of immunizations for the California Department of Health Services.
The nonprofit, community-owned Lodi Memorial Hospital will conduct its annual immunization drive-through vaccinations beginning Oct. 24 at Lodi Lake. Lodi Memorial is expecting to vaccinate about 6,500 residents.
The cost for the shot will be $10, although those whose Medicare insurance will cover the shot and have no other senior provider will be accepted. Many health maintenance organizations also reimburse clients as well, said Diana Matthews, director of LMH's flu immunization program. LMH carries Fluvirin and also has a supply of the pediatric vaccines available.
Since 1973, the state has run an immunization project called the California Flu Program to specifically vaccinate seniors and other at-risk groups. This year, the state has purchased 523,800 doses of the Fluvirin vaccine.
"Once we find out how much (money) were going to get, we then send it out to bid," Gandhi said. "Once we learn how many doses we'll get, from there, we'll start looking at allocating flu vaccines to local departments based on populations."
Because of an increase in costs, the state bought about 100,000 doses less than last year. No shortage is expected though, because the same amount of doses were in excess last year, Gandhi said.
This year, the Public Health Services of San Joaquin County will receive 7,520 doses of Fluvirin and a smaller amount of the pediatric medication, Gandhi said.
Health Services will provide vaccinations in Lodi from 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 3 at Hutchins Street Square and from 11 a.m. to noon Nov. 14 at the Lodi Buddhist Church.
Several other local organizations and businesses plan to hold vaccinations as the season continues.
"It's hard to know (how many people the county will vaccinate this year)," said Katy Tully, director of flu vaccinations in the county. "There are many alternative places to get (them)."
This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2, 2003, to correct the address of Galt Medical Services and to correct the type of insurance accepted at the Lodi Memorial Hospital vaccinations.