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Still time to get a flu shot

Less than half of Hamilton County residents have received vaccine

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, only 33.8 percent of the Iowan population have received an influenza vaccine for the 2019-2020 flu season.

In Hamilton County, that number is 41.2 percent.

Those numbers are nowhere near where they should be, Hamilton County Public Health Administrator Shelby Kroona said.

While in an ideal world, nearly the entire population would be vaccinated, Kroona said public health’s goal would be between 72 and 80 percent of adults and children vaccinated.

“That would give us really good protection for people who can’t receive the flu vaccine because either they’re allergic to it or they have weakened immune systems,” she said.

Kroona reminds county residents that influenza is a serious respiratory illness, and what some refer to as the “stomach flu” is not influenza.

The Influenza A strain of the virus has been diagnosed in Hamilton County, Kroona said. Influenza A is one of many strains this year’s flu vaccine protects against.

Every year, there are many hospitalizations and deaths attributed to the influenza virus and Kroona stresses that the influenza vaccine is a major prevention tool. She said it’s “very worrisome” for people with weakened lungs or other underlying health conditions.

In November, the Iowa DPH announced the first flu-related deaths of the season.

The flu shot doesn’t just protect the person getting the shot, but it also protects those who can’t because of allergies to vaccine ingredients or because of compromised immune systems by preventing the spread of the illness.

“By getting the vaccine, not only do you protect yourself, but you protect your family, you protect the community,” Kroona said. “If we have enough people in the community who are vaccinated, we protect the flu from coming into our community.”

Hamilton County Public Health is especially reminding residents who haven’t yet gotten their annual flu shot to do so as soon as possible, as the Christmas holidays are approaching.

“It takes a while to build those antibodies,” she said. “For some people, up to two weeks. We’re two weeks out from Christmas, so it’s a perfect time if you haven’t been vaccinated to get vaccinated so when you’re seeing family from all over the country or all over the state, you’ll have enough immunity that if somebody brings the flu with them, you will be protected.”

Kroona said Hamilton County Public Health, located at Shashi Station 1610 Collins St., still has plenty of flu vaccines available. To receive a flu shot from HCPH, Kroona said to call the clinic at 832-9565 to make sure a nurse is available. While the clinic does host child flu shot clinics on Wednesday, parents can call anytime during the week and HCPH will work them in, Kroona said.

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