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Not too late for flu shots

It's not too late to get a flu shot and there is plenty of flu vaccine available, say state health officials.

In an effort to promote flu vaccination, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Coalition for Adult Immunization (MCAI) and other organizations will sponsor the annual Ban the Bug campaign by providing opportunities for Minnesotans to catch up on their influenza vaccination. The campaign coincides with the Centers for Disease Control's National Influenza Vaccination Week.

In many communities around the state, local public health agencies, nonprofit groups and health care organizations will sponsor additional influenza vaccination clinics during the week of Dec. 5-11, as well as the entire month of December.

"This year there is an ample supply of flu vaccine so everyone who wants to get vaccinated should do so," said Kristen Ehresmann, director of the Infectious Disease Division.

"In fact, a new recommendation this year is that anyone 6 months and older should get an influenza vaccination," she said.

"The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated."

Flu seasons in Minnesota typically peak anytime between January and April, so getting an influenza vaccination now can provide months of protection.

"If you haven't been vaccinated for influenza yet, now is a great time to do it," Ehresmann said. "These special Ban the Bug clinics offer a great opportunity. You'll be doing a lot to keep yourself, your family and your community healthy this winter."

This year, it should be easier than ever to get a flu shot because there are more places to get one, Ehresmman noted.

Pharmacists can now give flu shots and last year's experience with H1N1 brought many new health care partners and providers on board.

To find the flu clinic location nearest you, go to the MDH influenza website at and select Find a Flu Shot Clinic.

Flu shots also may be given at other locations and times not listed on the MDH website. Check with your physician's office or regular walk-in clinic about getting vaccinated against the flu. For those who don't like shots, a nasal spray is also available for healthy people ages 2 through 49.

The cost of vaccinations will vary at each site. Those who have Medicare Part B or other health insurance should remember to bring their cards with them. Those seeking shots are asked to wear short sleeves, perhaps under a sweater if it's cold, to make getting the shot easier and more comfortable.

Annual influenza vaccination is now recommended for everyone six months and older unless they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. It is especially important that those at high risk for serious complications from influenza be vaccinated.

These include pregnant women, seniors, young children and those with chronic medical conditions. Because seniors may not respond as well to the vaccine, it is important to vaccinate people who live or work with seniors.

Also, to protect their patients, themselves and their families, all health care workers should be vaccinated for influenza.

Children under six months of age cannot receive flu vaccine, so household contacts and caretakers should be vaccinated to protect the very young.

"It takes about two weeks to develop maximum protection after a flu shot, so don't delay," Ehresman said.

"If you get your shot during Ban the Bug week, you should be almost fully immune by the holidays."