Clinics launching Monday, Oct. 7.

Public health influenza vaccination clinics will begin at county health departments throughout the state on Monday, Oct. 7. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reminds Oklahomans that getting vaccinated against the flu is the single best way to prevent the flu.

Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. In particular, pregnant women, children younger than 5 years of age, and people with asthma, diabetes, chronic heart and lung disease, or other chronic conditions are strongly encouraged to get the vaccine.

Parents and family members of babies younger than 6 months of age and people who live with or care for anyone at high risk for complications from the flu, including health care workers, should also get the vaccine. Infants born to women who have received their flu vaccination while pregnant may be protected against the flu for the first six months of their lives.

Public health experts estimate that during last year’s flu season, getting a flu vaccination reduced the need to see a health care professional by more than half for persons of all ages who received a flu vaccination. Nationally from 2005 through 2011, influenza vaccination prevented an estimated 13.6 million cases of influenza, an estimated 5.8 million medical visits, and about 113,000 flu-related hospitalizations, according to researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The overall evidence supports the benefit of flu vaccination,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu. An annual seasonal flu vaccination is the best way to reduce the chances you will get the flu and that you will spread flu to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, there is less opportunity for flu to spread throughout the community.”

A wide variety of flu vaccines are available this year. Some types, called quadrivalent vaccines, will provide protection against four strains of flu rather than three, so they have the potential to offer more protection. However, if the quadrivalent vaccines are not available from your regular health care provider, public health officials recommend getting the trivalent vaccine, which can also provide good protection against the flu this year.

County health departments will have the following types of flu vaccine available:

• Traditional three-strain injectable flu vaccine

• Quadrivalent (four-strain) injectable flu vaccine

• Nasal spray flu vaccine for people ages 2 through 49 years who are not at high risk of complications from flu and who are not pregnant

• High-dose three-strain injectable flu vaccine for persons age 65 years and older

County health departments will accept cash, checks or credit cards for payment and will provide flu vaccine according to the following fee schedule:

• No charge for families whose income is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

• No charge for adults 65 years of age and older. Medicare will be billed for the vaccine and the administration fee. Adults 65 and older should bring their Medicare Card.

• No charge for children who have no health insurance or whose insurance does not cover vaccines, are on SoonerCare or are Native American or Alaska natives.

• No cost for anyone 6 months through 64 years of age with Health Choice Insurance. (Please bring your insurance information.)

• Children and adults with health insurance that covers vaccines and those with incomes above 185 percent of the poverty level will be charged a fee of $25.00 to cover the cost of the flu vaccine and the cost of administering the vaccine.

Oklahoma County and Tulsa County residents should check with their city-county health departments for the flu vaccines and fee schedule available for those county residents.

In addition to getting a flu vaccination, persons 65 and older, and those with chronic health conditions should ask their health care provider if they should be vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia. Pneumococcal pneumonia is a common and potentially serious complication of the flu. Unlike the influenza vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine does not need to be given every year. This vaccine is available at county health departments.

For more information, call your local county health department or visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health website at .