WISE — With flu season fast approaching, the LENOWISCO Health District will begin offering free vaccinations Monday at area health departments.
The seasonal flu vaccine will be given while supplies last on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone age 3 years and older.
The vaccinations will be available at the Wise County-Norton Health Department, 134 Roberts Ave. SW, Wise; the Scott County Health Department, 190 Beech St., Gate City; and the Lee County Health Department at 134 Hill St., Jonesville.
Health officials said the impact of the flu virus is already being felt throughout the region.
“We’re already seeing cases of influenza this season in the LENOWISCO District, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health recommend vaccination each year for everyone 6 months and older,” LENOWISCO Health District Director Dr. Eleanor Sue Cantrell said. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and its potentially severe complications.”
LENOWISCO Nurse Manager Michelle McPheron said it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible because it can take time for the vaccine to fully protect against the virus.
“The timing and duration of flu seasons vary — they can occur from early fall to as late as May — so you should get the vaccine as soon as it’s available, and December is definitely not too late,” McPheron said. “It takes up to two weeks to develop the vaccine’s full protection, and the benefits last for up to a year.”
High-risk groups for complications stemming from influenza include pregnant and postpartum women, persons over 65 years of age, people who have chronic lung or heart problems and those who have other serious medical conditions like diabetes or cancer, among others.
In order to stem the spread of influenza, those who live with individuals in a high-risk group and health care workers are also encourage to be vaccinated.
Health officials said approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized in the United States each year due to flu illness, and flu-related deaths over the last three decades average 24,000.