It's National Influenza Vaccination Week and health officials are reminding everyone that there is lots of flu vaccine available.
Unlike last year, when there were lines to get the H1N1 vaccine, there is vaccine ready to go at doctors' offices, retail outlets and health departments. There also is only one shot needed. It contains both the seasonal flu vaccine (for A and B strains) and the H1N1 vaccine.
Also unlike last year, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports that the flu is behaving normally this year so far. There are only low levels now, but things are just ramping up. The peak is expected in February.
"Flu vaccine is in sufficient supply so now is the time to get vaccinated against the flu," said John M. Colmers, health secretary, in a statement. "Protect yourself, your family and friends from the flu before it starts spreading through schools and the workplace where it could cost you time on the job or in the classroom or, something far worse. We do have reports of Marylanders, mostly children for now, who are being hospitalized with the flu and flu-related illness."
The retail shops are convenient for many to get the shot – it's usually about $20. Local health departments also are offering free and low cost clinics.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for the first time that everyone over 6 months old get a flu vaccination, and not just at risk groups including kids, seniors, health care workers, those with pre-existing conditions and pregnant women.
The seasonal flu generally hit seniors the hardest. But flu can be unpredictable. The H1N1 flu hit kids particularly hard.
The state has contact information for local health departments.