The local health department has received more arsenal to help citizens fight against the 2018-19 influenza season that began on Oct. 1.
Which is good news for those who have a strong dislike for needles.
Amy Bate, health promotion coordinator and public information officer for the Tooele County Health Department, said the health department just received the rest of its nasal spray flu vaccination order.
“We now have a full stock,” Bate said. “It’s difficult to receive it all at once with other health departments wanting it, too. We ordered 3,000 and got 900. We just got the other 2,100.”
When it was announced last week that flu season had started, Bate said the health department’s limited supply of nasal spray flu vaccination, also commonly known under the trademark name as FluMist, would be used entirely at local school flu clinics. The added shipment of nasal spray now means the health department can offer the alternative vaccination at 151 N. Main St., Tooele.
FluMist, which the health department began offering in 2003, is a needle-free vaccine sprayed into the nose. It consists of live, yet attenuated (weakened) flu strains that create antibodies in the body to fight the flu, said Amy Royal, public health nurse and school nursing coordinator for the county health department.
She said health studies recommend FluMist be used only for non-pregnant persons between 24 months and 49 years old. The product helps those who struggle with needle phobia.
“It’s especially helpful for the parents and the child,” Royal said. “It’s a good alternative [to getting an injection]. We get more kids vaccinated.”
Getting more children — and adults, too — vaccinated who suffer from needle phobia has been a challenge for the health department over the past two years. In 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control suspended use of the nasal spray because of performance concerns involving the 2009 H1N1 flu strain.
But last February, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to drop the suspension because AstraZeneca, a global pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company that makes FluMist, swapped out the 2009 H1N1 vaccine component with a more effective strain.
“We’re thrilled to have FluMist back,” said Bate. “It gets rid of the fear factor and is just as effective. It just provides an alternative choice. … I was at a school flu clinic and some of the kids were in tears, but were a lot happier after they heard they could get vaccinated without a shot.”
With the 2018-19 influenza season underway, Bate and other local health officials encourage citizens to get vaccinated before the end of October and before people begin to spend more time indoors. It takes about two weeks after being vaccinated for antibodies that fight the flu to take full effect.
Flu vaccinations, both traditional injections and FluMist, are available at the county health department Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. She said most insurance plans are accepted. Self-pay is $30 per vaccination, but anyone under 18 years of age and without health insurance qualifies for free vaccinations.
High-dose vaccinations for anyone 65 or older are also available. Self-pay is $58 per dose. The health department is located at 151 N. Main St., Tooele. Flu vaccinations are also available at several local clinics, pharmacies and other outlets in the community.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all citizens at least 6 months old through adulthood should be vaccinated by the end of October before the flu begins to spread through the community. The flu season begins every fall and can last through spring, with peak time December through February.
Last week, the county health department and the Tooele County School District began flu clinics at local schools to help protect students and teachers against the flu. The clinics will continue through Nov. 2.
For more flu or clinic information, call 435-277-2301 or visit tooelehealth.org/flu-clinics/. More comprehensive information about influenza, prevention, treatment and the 2018-19 influenza season is available on the CDC’s website at cdc.gov.