Austin to Offer Free Flu Vaccines
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story referred to the Travis County Health and Human Services Department. It is the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department.
By Era Sundar
Starting this month, free flu vaccines will be available through the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department.
The free shot clinics are designed to make it easier for those who are uninsured or underinsured to get vaccinations. Convenience was even factored into the equation, said Coleen Christian with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department.
“We’ll even have a drive-through clinic where you just roll down your window, roll up your sleeve and get a shot while you’re still sitting in your car,” Christian said. “Oct. 10 out of the Travis County Expo Center.”
The flu season typically runs from September to June. And the peak of the season is expected to strike around February. But Christian says people shouldn’t wait to get vaccinated.
“The vaccine does not start working immediately,” Christian said. “It takes two to three weeks for the body to respond and build up its peak immunity. So we recommend that people get it now so that when they are in a situation where they could get the disease, they are protected.”
But vaccinations are not foolproof. Christian says people can also do a few simple things to help prevent illness this season.
“Other things include simple stuff like covering your cough, washing your hands after you sneeze, and also if you’re not feeling good, if you’ve got a fever, stay home,” Christian said. “Don’t go out if you’re sick.”
That’s especially important, said Tom Skinner with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, because the shots don’t cover every strain of flu.
“So we try to monitor what’s happening around the globe and predict what’s going to be circulating during our flu season,” Skinner said. “And we develop a vaccine to protect against the strains we expect to circulate. We’ve done that this year. There are a couple of new strains in the vaccine. And hopefully we’ll have a good match.”
Since the swine flu pandemic of 2009, Skinner says the seasonal flu vaccine also includes protection against the H1N1 virus. He estimates that about 45 percent of the nation’s population was vaccinated last year. Vaccine manufacturers in the U.S. are expected to produce about 150 million doses this year.
Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services will host five free flu clinics throughout Austin starting Sept. 22. For more information, visit austintexas.gov.