McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 5, 2013

Flu vaccinations start Monday at Pittsburg County Health Department

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — It’s nearing time for what is traditionally the heavy part of the flu season in Oklahoma, and the Pittsburg County Health Department is making a pointed effort to have area residents ready when it arrives.

Influenza vaccinations are set to start Monday morning at the Pittsburg County Health Department.

“We want to remind the public to come and get their flu vaccinations,” said Pittsburg County Health Department Administrator Mike Echelle.

“The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months or older,” Echelle said. However, those allergic to eggs may want to see their medical providers, he said. Flu vaccinations are available without eggs, but the health department doesn’t have them.

Vaccines will be available through injection or by nasal mist, according to Echelle. Nasal spray is available for those from ages 2 to 49, he said. It is not intended for pregnant women.

Echelle said the health department has both three-strain and four-strain vaccinations available.

What’s the difference? One strain, said Echelle.

The three-strain vaccine offers protection against three strains of flu, and the four-strain vaccine offers protection against four types, he said.

“It’s more protection,” Echelle said of the four-strain vaccination.

“We also have a high-dose vaccine for individuals who are 65 or older,” said Echelle. Because they are at higher risk of getting complications from the flu, the vaccine gives them more protection.

“It has four times the antigens,” Echelle said.

Vaccinations are no longer offered free to everyone through the Pittsburg County Health Department, although a number of people may qualify.

“There’s no charge for families whose income is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level,” Echelle said. He said a formula will be available at the health department, because factors such as the number of individuals in a household are considered.

Also, there’s no charge to adults who are 65 or older. Medicare will be billed, Echelle said. In addition, Echelle said there’s no charge for children on SoonerCare, for Native Americans or for children whose insurance plans don’t cover vaccines.

Also, insurance can be billed by the health department. Those who don’t have insurance coverage and who fall outside the income guidelines will be charged $25, according to Echelle.

Regular hours for the health department are from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary to get the influenza vaccine.

 The Pittsburg County Health Department is at 1400 E. College Ave., east of the McAlester Regional Health Center.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.