BREWER — With fall not yet officially on the calendar, getting a flu shot in late summer makes as much sense as waxing a snow shovel.
But mid-September is a great time, “a smart time,” to get a flu shot, according to Brewer Walgreens Manager Ed Lord.
“The flu season typically begins in September and usually peaks in late December,” when holiday-related travel and social gatherings may bring more people into contact with flu sufferers, he said. If this occurs, “sometimes it (flu season) runs into January, as we saw last year,” Lord said
The flu is a virus that, not treatable with antibiotics, can seriously sicken and even kill its host. Once an individual falls ill with the flu, vaccination will not help; the best way to protect oneself against the flu is by getting immunized, preferably before the flu season gets well underway.
If people wait, there is a chance of an outbreak occurring among unvaccinated individuals, Lord said.
According to Lord, the Centers for Disease Control emphasizes early immunization and recommends a flu shot for everybody over the age of 6 months. An ill person should consult with a physician or pharmacist before receiving a shot.
September is a good month to receive a flu shot. “We have a plentiful supply of the vaccine on hand right now,” Lord said. Patients can obtain flu shots by visiting (without appointment) the pharmacies at these Walgreens:
• 405 Water St., Augusta;
• 97 Oak St., Bangor;
• 706 Broadway, Bangor;
• 268 Main St., Belfast;
• 437 Wilson St., Brewer;
• 226 High St., Ellsworth.
The Walgreens pharmacies in Bangor, Brewer, Belfast and Ellsworth are open 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. The Augusta pharmacy is open 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Flu shots are administered only by a pharmacist, Lord stressed. “Most people’s health plans will cover a flu shot,” he said. A pharmacist contacts a patient’s health insurer to determine coverage.
Medicare Part B covers flu shots.
Through its flu-shut voucher program, Walgreens works closely with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to distribute flu shot vouchers to uninsured or under-insured individuals, Lord said. Walgreens has distributed approximately 1 million such vouchers since establishing the program a few years ago.
A vaccination should not take long. “We offer a hassle-free alternative to waiting around the doctor’s office,” said Lord, estimating that a typical visit to our pharmacy for a flu shot might take 20 minutes.
Usually a medical professional uses a needle to inject the flu vaccine into a patient’s upper arm. “Some people don’t like needles,” Lord said. For these patients, a needle-free nasal alternative known as FluMist Quadrivalent exists for delivering a flu vaccine, he said.
According to flumistquadrivalent.com, the nasal-spray vaccine is designed for patients age 2 to 49. A patient should consult with a doctor or a pharmacist to determine eligibility for receiving a FluMist Quadrivalent vaccine.
There is also a high-dose version [of the flu shot] for those over the age of 65, an age group considered to face the highest risk from flu complications, Lord said.
All Walgreeens pharmacies offer additional vaccines to immunize patients against pneumonia, meningitis, varicella (chickenpox) and the shingles, among other medical conditions. An all-in-one vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
But the flu vaccine remains the most frequently administered vaccine at Walgreens, which provided more than 7 million flu shots nationwide in 2012-13.
Although there are many flu strains, the vaccine developed for a particular flu season usually targets the strains that more often infect people. According to Lord, the 2013-14 vaccine protects against the three most prevalent flu strains H1N1, H3N2 and a B virus.
Patients getting their flu shots at a local Walgreens this month can help at-risk children in other countries. Through the Shot @ Life Campaign sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, for every vaccine administered at any Walgreens location through Monday, Oct. 14, Walgreens will make a donation to provide a life-saving vaccine to [protect] a child in a developing country against measles, pneumonia, polio, rotavirus and other diseases, Lord said.
For information, go to onto walgreens.com/topic/health-shops/flu-shots.jsp.