(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) With flu season right around the corner, the St. Joseph Health Department helped hundreds of Buchanan County residents get protected from the virus, free of charge.
On Wednesday, Clinic Supervisor Connie Werner said the department held a Community Flu Clinic to administer vaccines to anyone 18 and older, with or without insurance.
"We don't want not having the funds for paying for a flu shot to be the reason not to get one," Werner said.
The clinic was held at the St. Joseph REC Center from 8:30 a.m. until noon. The department's Public Information Officer, Stephanie Malita, said they gave out 280 flu shots during the event. While they hope to get more people every year, some are still leery of getting the vaccine.
"One thing that we often hear is, 'I got the flu shot, and then I got the flu,'" Malita said. "The truth is, the flu shot or any vaccine takes a week or two or even a little bit longer to actually build that immune in your system."
She added that in most cases when people get the flu after getting the shot, they often were already exposed to the virus before receiving the vaccine. Werner echoed that statement and said the shot is inactivated, meaning it's not a live vaccine and cannot give someone the virus.
"What can happen is your body might start having reactions as it's forming up those antibodies," Werner said. "So, you might feel achy, you might have a sore arm, you might have a low-grade fever for just a short amount of time. That's your body just preparing to fight off any flu virus that might be coming in."
Malita said flu season typically runs from October through March, but that it can sometimes last even longer. She said peak time in St. Joseph is usually in February. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that last year's flu season was the longest in 10 years, running for 21 weeks.
While the department encouraged everyone to get the vaccine, health officials said those most at risk during flu season are young children and elderly adults.
"Their bodies don't have the capacity to fight it off like a healthy immune system does," Malita said.
She added that it's important not to underestimate the flu, and that while it can sometimes seem similar to a common cold, it can also turn deadly.
The CDC reported 186 confirmed U.S. pediatric deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season. Werner said this past season, 138 child deaths were reported.
"That's something that you think is just the flu, but for 138 families it was more than just the flu," Werner said. "The only way to try and get that extra protection is to get your kids that flu shot."
She added that the vaccine for young children is typically administered differently depending on the child's age. The St. Joseph Health Department said they do have the vaccine for children and encouraged parents to contact them if they're needing a child vaccinated.
Anyone who was not able to make it to the free flu clinic on Wednesday has also been asked to contact the Health Department at (816) 271-4636 to get the shot.