FLU SEASON UPON US — Ted Garnett gets help with his paperwork from Jackie Bonser of the Pondera County Health Department. He received a flu shot during a clinic at Olson’s Drug. Olson’s will host another clinic on Oct. 20 from 3-6 p.m. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Grubb
If you’ve visited with your elderly loved ones at the Horizon Lodge or the Bee Hive you may be aware that the health department has been there to offer flu shots.
Outreach clinics have occurred at many locations including those that house or serve populations that are considered high risk for complications that stem from influenza. According to Cynthia Grubb, Pondera County Health Department Nurse, “Vaccinating these populations early ensures supply is adequate for people who may find it difficult to get a flu shot. Now that the initial phase is complete, we are moving toward the general population.”
Influenza can be a serious respiratory illness with consequences of pneumonia and long term recovery even for otherwise healthy adults and children. But people should also consider who they may expose if they get the flu. While your flu may be mild you could still transmit the illness to someone around you whose immune system is weaker, including the elderly and infants under six months who are not eligible for vaccine or those whose immune system might be affected due to chronic illness or medical treatments like chemotherapy.
Frontline Ag of Conrad decided it was worth it. When bookkeeper, Jackie Wheeler was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, they encouraged their Conrad workforce to get flu shots partly to make Jackie’s work environment safer. This year Frontline Ag reached nearly 80 percent of their local employees receiving flu shots.
According to Wheeler, “We now set up an appointment with the health department to come to us, we can get this done in about an hour and the department bills our insurance for us. We think it benefits us by not only creating a healthier work environment, but also keeps our staff working and not home sick.”
This year, a new trend in flu shots is their wide availability at many of the Great Falls box stores and pharmacies. The health department encourages you to get your flu shot where you can, but would also like you to consider staying local for your vaccine needs.
Vaccinating locally may be important in keeping local supplies stable for future ordering purposes. While Pondera County Health department would prioritize Pondera County residents in a shortage, too much inventory left over is a cost that must be considered. Wayne Ashworth, Director of Rural Health Clinic of Pondera Medical Center reminds the public, “In the end, if we give less, we order less next year, if we give more, we order more.”
Flu shots also provide the Health department and local planners with an opportunity to estimate how much vaccine would be needed in an emergency besides influenza and also to test how long it would take the small department to distribute emergency medication. Grubb states of the health department, which anticipates giving over 500 flu shots this season, “We become more efficient each year and we always aim to be more efficient next year.”
If you haven’t received your flu shot yet, call PCHD at 271-3247 or come to the next clinic on Oct. 20 at Olson’s Drug in Conrad from 3-6 p.m. Flu shots are also available through Pondera Medical Center Clinic by appointment at 271-3231.