Summary: This year it's more convenient than ever to protect yourself from catching the flu. Vaccinations are available now and the Health Department will even file your insurance claim.
North Iowans who are used to queuing up for flu shots as part of their early winter routine might be surprised to learn that the next flu season's vaccines are available now.
The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health began offering influenza vaccinations Monday and has shots available at its Mason City office in Mohawk Square. The department will also administer vaccines at locations around the county beginning Thursday.
But wait, you are thinking. If you get a flu shot now, will the immunization still be effective in February or March if the flu bug comes knocking?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, which is probably the top authority on this topic in the country, "Flu vaccination provides protection against the influenza strains contained in the seasonal vaccine for the entire season. Vaccination can begin as soon as vaccine becomes available."
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot every year. It's especially important for people who are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or who live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications. This includes:
• Pregnant women.
• Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2.
• People 50 years of age and older.
• People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
• People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers and household contacts.
• Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (because these children are too young to be vaccinated).
As an added benefit this year, the county Health Department will accept and file insurance claims with most private insurance companies.
In the past, many insurance companies have covered the cost of flu shots, but the shots had to be paid for out of pocket and then a claim filed for reimbursement. Now the claims can be filed directly so the shots don't have to be paid for up front.
Getting the flu is miserable - for the person who gets it, for the family members who have to care for (and put up with) the sick person, for the co-workers who have to cover for the absent employee and for everyone else to whom the sick person spreads the disease.
When it comes to flu shots, the answers anymore are simple. Who should get it? You should. When should you get it? Now.
Cerro Gordo County
Flu vaccine will be administered at these dates and locations:
• Thursday, Sept. 1 - Mason City Senior Citizen Center, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• Wednesday, Sept. 7 - Clear Lake Senior Citizen Center, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• Wednesday, Sept. 7 - Meservey Public Library, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
• Wednesday, Sept. 7 - Thornton Public Library, 3 to 4 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 9 - Swaledale Town Hall, 9 to 9:30 a.m.
• Tuesday, Sept. 13 - Rockwell Community Center, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• Wednesday, Sept. 14 - Ventura Community Center, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• Monday, Sept. 19 - NIACC Activity Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Tuesday, Sept. 20 - Plymouth Town Hall, 10 to 11 a.m.
• Friday, Sept. 23 - Zion Lutheran Church, Clear Lake, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Thursday, Oct. 27 - Ventura High School, 4 to 7 p.m.
• Tuesday, Nov. 1 - Rockwell Community School, 4 to 7:30 p.m.