Of the Baker City Herald

If you didnt receive your flu shot at St. Elizabeth Health Services yesterday or today, youre too late.

Helen Sargent, the hospitals infection control officer, said that 1,064 people received vaccinations against Types A and B of the influenza virus Monday, the first day of the hospitals annual flu shot clinic. With just 350 doses left this morning, Sargent cancelled a clinic scheduled for next Monday at the hospital.

Sargent and crew of six arrived for work Monday morning about 7 oclock in plenty of time to open the clinic by 8 a.m.

The trouble was, the nurses were greeted by so many people patiently waiting in line that they opened up at 7:30 instead.

By lunchtime, theyd seen and vaccinated about 600 area residents who are in the highest risk group for influenza, including people over 65; adults with chronic heart, lung, or kidney disease; respiratory disease; diabetes; immunosuppression disease; or severe forms of anemia.

Also receiving shots during this first round are nursing home residents and people who deal with the public in their jobs, including teachers, Sargent said. Teachers are not necessarily part of the high-risk group, but they should be immunized now, too, Sargent said Monday.

Hospital staff and residents of St. Elizabeth Care Center, the hospitals nursing home, have already received their flu shots.

On Monday, the first day of the clinic, it took three nurses to administer the shots and two more just to fill syringes with the vaccine. Two hospital auxiliary volunteers greeted the public and helped people fill out paperwork.

Even at that, we could hardly keep up with the rush, Sargent said.

She said that last years flu outbreak in the area was mild, despite a manufacturing problem that delayed providers from getting vaccines to healthcare providers until just before the onset of the flu season, typically in late November or early December.

A doubling in the price of the vaccine this year led St. Elizabeth to seek a $5 donation to the hospital foundation from everyone receiving a flu shot. People unable to pay still received their shots, Sargent said.

Safeway and Bi-Mart will both offer flu shots in the coming days. Safeway, at 1205 Campbell Street, will vaccinate from 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10. Cost is $15, and Medicare Part B patients will be accepted.

Bi-Mart, at 700 Campbell Street, will offer flu shots for $15 and pneumonia shots for $25. That service will be offered from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6 and from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.

Medicare Part B patients will be billed, as will certain other people with health insurance.

What is the flu?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza viruses are divided into three types, designated A, B and C. Types A and B, the kind the common vaccine immunizes against, are responsible for epidemics of respiratory illness that occur almost every winter and are often associated with increased rates for hospitalization and death.

Type C infection usually causes either a very mild respiratory illness or no symptoms at all. It does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact of types A and B.

Type A undergoes a series of mutations over time called antigenic drift. This constant changing enables the virus to evade the immune system of its host so that people are susceptible to influenza virus infection throughout their lives.

But the Type A virus also shifts, when a new subtype of the virus suddenly emerges.

Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year, depending on how well the influenza virus strains included in the vaccine match up with the strains that circulate during the influenza season. The vaccine strains must be chosen nine to 10 months before the flu season; because influenza viruses change over time, the vaccines usefulness can be reduced.

Studies show the vaccine is between 70 and 90 percent effective in preventing illness among healthy young adults. Among the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions, the vaccine is often less effective in preventing influenza infection, but is still very effective in reducing the severity of the illness and the risk of serious complications and death.

Studies have shown that the vaccine can reduce hospitalization by about 70 percent and death by about 85 percent among elderly who are not in nursing homes.

The CDC says that people are not vaccinated because of misconceptions about both influenza and the vaccine. Many people are not aware of the seriousness of the influenza infection. Some believe that the vaccine can cause the flu.

Others worry about the side effects of the influenza vaccine. The CDC says the risk of the vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small. The most common side effect from influenza vaccination is soreness at the site of the injection. The soreness can last up to two days but its usually mild.

Vaccine manufacturers expected to ship nearly 80 million doses nationwide, the CDC said. That number is greater than the 2000 level and comparable with 1999s.