This flu season, the Oklahoma State Department of Health will offer free flu vaccinations at its county clinics.
Beginning Oct. 1, the department will provide flu shots at no out-of-pocket cost at all county health clinics statewide. Anyone coming in to get the flu shot will be asked to show proof of insurance.
Last flu season was one of the worst in decades, according to a press release from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. In Oklahoma, there were 291 deaths and 4,819 hospitalizations between September 2017 and May 2018, according to a press release from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
"These numbers serve as a sobering reminder of the dangers of influenza," said immunologist and doctor Eliza Chakravarty in the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation press release.
The state health department's press release said the flu vaccination is recommended for people aged six months and older, and that people should get it every year because the flu evolves each year and the new vaccination is made specifically to combat that year's flu. Also, after a year, a person’s immune protection from the vaccination will decrease.
If everyone gets the flu shot each year, it reduces the chances of the flu spreading through communities and families, according to the state health department's news release.
“We are encouraging everyone to get their flu vaccination and we hope this effort to provide the shots at no out-of-pocket cost to recipients will make it more accessible,” said Tom Bates, the health department's interim commissioner, in the press release. “The last season was especially devastating and we want to ensure that as many people as possible can receive the added protection that the flu vaccine provides.”
Goddard Health Center also will give out free flu shots to students on campus. Flu vaccinations will be offered from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2, 3, 16 and 17. No appointments are necessary to receive a flu shot.
Along with getting a flu shot, the Oklahoma State Department of Health recommends living a healthy lifestyle, getting enough sleep and washing your hands to reduce the chances of getting the flu. If you get it, then the department recommends covering your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve and staying home if possible.
“There is literally no downside (to getting the flu shot),” she said. “It’s extremely affordable — free in many cases. Even 40 to 60 percent effectiveness still reduces your chances of getting the virus considerably,” Chakravarty said in the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation press release. “If you can physically get the flu shot, do it. It saves lives.”