Get your flu shot. Not too early, but also not too late. October, for Carroll County, is the vaccination sweet spot.
That’s the message from the Carroll County Health Department for the 2018-2019 flu season, according to Deputy Health Officer Dr. Henry Taylor.
Influenza season can be highly variable over any large area due to the changing strains of the virus, movement of people and the different ways different demographics respond to the illness, he said. So national organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tend to recommend people simply get a flu shot as soon as it is available, but before the end of October.
But local data on the flu season over the past several years allows Carroll County health officials to make more specific recommendations around flu season, according to Taylor.
“When we look at our local data, we believe it really starts taking off in November in terms of when we see the rate going up for ER visits,” he said. “By targeting October, we are trying to get people vaccinated several weeks before the flu season starts.”
In recent years, Carroll County has also seen a second flu epidemic associated with B strains of the flu virus that Taylor said tend to hit later in the winter and persist into April. Getting a flu shot in October is also good timing to provide protection into that spring flu season, he said.
Given the good timing, protection-wise, of October flu vaccinations, Taylor said the Health Department and community partners will be campaigning to make October the month for flu, including clinics at senior centers, in the schools and at the health department, in Westminster.
Vaccinations will be offered at senior and community centers beginning Oct. 9 at the South Carroll Center and finishing up Oct. 30, in Mount Airy.
Vaccinations in Carroll County Public Schools will take place between Oct. 22 and Oct 25, while the health department will host clinics in November for children who miss the in-school clinics.
Vaccinations will also be available in pharmacies and through primary care providers, Taylor said, though he noted that pharmacies will only give vaccines to children ages 9 and older.
As far as the type of flu vaccine, Tayler said the health department is recommending that most people get the quadrivalent vaccine that protects against four different strains of the flu, although some people might find their doctor recommends something else.
“There are a number of different flu shots available, including a high dose vaccine, and people should check with their health care provider to see if one of the others is better,” he said.
Also back in the mix is the FluMist nasal spray flu vaccine, although it will not be offered during the in-school vaccination clinics, according to Taylor.
“There was an issue over its effectiveness over the last couple of years and they have reformulated it,” he said. “The only reason we are not doing it in the schools is they didn’t have the supply chain ready in time for us to get it and put it into the schools.”
The FluMist vaccine will be available at the clinics held at the health department and at many providers, though not at most pharmacies, Taylor said.
To learn more about the flu, where the vaccine is available and keep up with any changes throughout the upcoming flu season, visit the health department’s flu page at cchd.maryland.gov/flu.