Officials: Go get flu shots now

CONYERS - With the flu vaccine now available at both Rockdale and Newton county health centers, public health officials are reminding residents to get an early jump on preparing for the upcoming flu season.

Vaccinations arrived a month earlier this year and are available to the public for $20. Also available this year is a vaccination by nasal mist for $25. The nasal mist is for people who are allergic to eggs, gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.

Flu shots will be given on a walk-in basis at both health centers. The Rockdale County Health Department is located at 1329 Portman Drive off Iris Drive. The Newton County Health Department is located at 8203 Hazelbrand Road in Covington.

Last year, the flu began early and then lingered well into spring. Vernon Goins, public information officer for the East Metro Health District, said that prompted health officials to get vaccinations to providers early this year.

"The last flu season was frustrating for everyone," Goins said. "It persisted until late spring and made a lot of people sick who dodged it during the normal season. That's why it's so important to get the flu shots while public clinics and private providers have supplies on hand."

Health officials on the national level have prepared for this flu season with a record production from suppliers. There will be 143 million doses distributed across the United States, the largest amount of flu vaccinations in history.

The extra vaccinations were purchased not in anticipation of an increase in flu cases, but as a hedge against running out, which has occurred in past years, Goins said.

The flu vaccinations have a three-month shelf life, so health officials here are working to get supplies to all heath care providers by Dec. 1 at the latest.

"At the health department, we want to get everyone who is interested in a flu shot vaccinated before Thanksgiving," Goins said. "We will definitely not keep any supplies around after the New Year."

A flu shot is one way to keep from getting the flu, but good personal hygiene habits can help keep one from spreading the flu to others, Goins said.

He advised that people wash their hands often and keep their hands away from the lips, eyes and nose. Covering one's mouth during a sneeze or cough is also important. If you get the flu, do your coworkers a favor and stay at home, Goins said.

People in certain risk groups should go ahead and get their flu shots as soon as possible, Goins said.

Those groups include children from 6 to 23 months old, adults 65 years and older, anyone from 2 to 64 years old with underlying chronic medical conditions and women who are or plan to be pregnant during the influenza season.

Other at-risk groups include residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, children ages 6 months to 18 years who are on chronic aspirin therapy, health care workers involved in direct patient care and out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children aged 6 months old.

Flu shots will be available at both Rockdale and Newton health centers. The Rockdale County Health Center is open 8 a.m. to

5 p.m. Monday and Friday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The Newton County Health Center is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

For more information, call the Newton County Health Center at 770-786-9086 or the Rockdale County Health Center at 770-785-5936.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.