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Health Department prepping for flu shots
Flu season could be a tough one this year
flu shots delayed
The Barton County Health Department notes its time to start thinking about flu vaccinations. - photo by Tribune file photo

The Barton County Health Department is participating with the Great Bend Tribune’s Women’s Expo on Sept. 24. The department hopes to offer, along with lab services, influenza vaccines.

That is a big if, Health Director Shelly Schneider said. Although no shortage is anticipated, there have been delays in providing this year’s vaccines.

“We should have them by next week,” she said. They have a very limited supply now, and also have outreach clinics set for Oct. 15 and 23 in communities around the county.

“It could be rough,” Schneider said of the 2019-2020 flu season. Australia’s flu season is usually a pretty good indicator of what the United States can expect, and the Aussies had a bad year.

Most of the influenza vaccines offered by the department are quadrivalent vaccines, meaning that there are four strains of protection versus three, she said. “It is important that people understand the vaccines that they are getting the protection they are receiving.”

This time of year is called “flu season.” In the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November.

Vaccine delay

It took longer this year for the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify the strains needed to produce the vaccine, which caused the delay in production, the Centers for Disease Control reported.

According to the CDC, there are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match circulating flu viruses. 

Flu vaccines protect against the three or four viruses (depending on the vaccine) that research suggests will be most common. For 2019-2020, trivalent (three-component) vaccines are recommended to contain:

• A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)

• A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus (updated)

• B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus

Quadrivalent (four-component) vaccines, which protect against a second lineage of B viruses, are recommended to contain:

• The three recommended viruses above, plus B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus.

The World Health Organization made the selection of the H1N1 and both B components for 2019-2020 Northern Hemisphere flu vaccines on Feb. 21 and at that time decided to delay the decision on an H3N2 vaccine component. U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee also selected the H1N1 and B components at their first meeting on March 6, but also decided to postpone the selection of the H3N2 component. 

WHO selected the H3N2 component listed above on March 21. The FDA chose the same H3N2 component for U.S. vaccines on March 22.

Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so supply depends on manufacturers, the CDC reported. For the 2019-2020 season, manufacturers have projected they will provide between 162 million and 169 million doses of vaccine for the U.S. market.

On the horizon

Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, and it can last as late as May. The highest number of people gets sick with the flu in December and January.

“The influenza vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone six months of age or older,” said Dr. Farah Ahmed, state epidemiologist, Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Being vaccinated against influenza is especially important for anyone at high risk of complications, including babies and young children, pregnant women, older persons and people with certain chronic conditions.

“Getting vaccinated also protects people around you,” Ahmed said. “So getting vaccinated is important for persons caring for young children and those caring for persons with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe complications.”

Depending on the severity of the influenza season, 5-20 percent of the population may get influenza each year, the KDHE reports. Symptoms of influenza include fever, dry cough, extreme tiredness and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration; influenza may also worsen other chronic conditions.

The Barton County Health Department Flu Outreaches have been scheduled for:  

• Oct. 15 – Galatia, Olmitz, Albert and Pawnee Rock

• Oct. 23 – Susank, Beaver, Odin and Claflin