SIKESTON -- With an all-time high supply of the influenza vaccine projected to be manufactured, people shouldn't have any trouble finding somewhere to get their flu shots this year.
"We anticipate no shortage. We have an ample supply, and we don't anticipate any problems," said Susan Kneeskern, public health consultant nurse for Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in Jefferson City.
Vaccine manufacturer's are projecting as many as 143 million to 146 million doses of influenza vaccine will be manufactured for the United States during the 2008-2009 influenza season, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If they prove true, these figures would be a record for the number of doses of influenza vaccine administered in a season.
This year's flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illnesses during the flu season, the CDC said. Some might recall last season when a flu outbreak occurred in a strain that wasn't included in the vaccine.
"Last year was a bit different, but still, even for those who chose to get the flu vaccines, their symptoms were much less than those who didn't get the vaccine," Kneeskern said. "It's still always a benefit to get the vaccine because manufacturers do try to create the vaccine they feel will be most effective."
And the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks, Kneeskern said.
Scott County Health Department will begin administering flu shots Tuesday with several other flu shot clinics scheduled for this month.
"We have plenty of vaccine," said Scott County Health Department nurse practitioner Kay Griffin. "Right now the vaccine we have is for those 4 years and older. We're still waiting on the vaccine for those 6 months and older."
October is the best time to get the flu shot, but the vaccine has arrived so the health department is administering shots this month, Griffin said.
"Not every health department or doctor's office has the vaccine right now. We got it earlier and wanted to get a head start so we're ready to go with it," Griffin said.
Health officials said New Madrid County Health Department would begin administering flu shots in mid-October while Mississippi County Health Department will start giving the vaccine Oct. 6 in Charleston and Oct. 9 in East Prairie.
Flu season most often peaks in January or February, or later so people not able to get their vaccine in the fall, vaccination in December and beyond is beneficial in most years, the CDC said.
Kneeskern said she encourages everyone to get vaccinated for the flu.
"People don't have to be in a high-risk group to get the flu shot. Getting the vaccination not only benefits those who get the flu shot, but also we're protecting those who are at risk, such as very small children," Kneeskern said.
Anyone who is in group contact or in close contact should also consider getting the vaccine, Griffin said.
Besides the vaccine, there are other preventive measures people can take to avoid contracting the flu.
"Good hand washing is the best prevention, and small children aren't the best at washing their hands," Griffin noted.
Nikki Vaught, health services coordinator for the Sikeston R-6 School District, agreed.
Vaught said she encourages both children and adults to wash their hands more frequently and have hand sanitizer with them when soap isn't available.
Getting shots as soon as the vaccine is available may be most important for children who are being vaccinated against the flu for the first time. These children, who must be at least 6 months old, need to get two doses of flu vaccine at least four weeks apart, the CDC said.
"In years past, we didn't encourage kids to have the flu shot except for kids with chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes, but this year we're focusing a lot on kids getting the flu vaccine," Vaught said. "We are highly encouraging children ages 4 and up to get the vaccine."
Protection provided by the flu vaccine lasts about a year, the CDC said.