Released by Kern County Dept. of Public Health on October 20, 2009 - Like the coming of fog and rain, Bakersfield citizens know and expect another winter recurrence - seasonal flu. That means it's also time to get your seasonal flu shot, and a unique community partnership is working together to provide free seasonal flu shots to help prepare the community for the virus.
At a news conference this morning, the Kern County Department of Public Health, Bakersfield College and California State University, Bakersfield, announced a partnership to provide free seasonal flu vaccinations to the community in a drive through clinic on Friday, October 30 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Officials emphasize this is a seasonal vaccine and not the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine.
The purpose of the clinic is to provide a free seasonal flu vaccine to residents and also to practice mass vaccination plans, which are designed to ensure that health professionals and volunteers are prepared to vaccinate or dispense medication to a large population in a very short period of time. If Bakersfield was ever to experience pandemic influenza or another such disaster, it might be necessary to distribute medications to many citizens quickly.
Dr. Claudia Jonah, Kern County Health Officer, explained, "The time to practice dispensing large amounts of medication is now, before we have a disaster. It's also important for all people in Kern County to receive a seasonal flu shot. Roughly 36,000 Americans die each year from complications of the seasonal flu. Getting a shot is the best protection."
Mass vaccination exercises help the Public Health Department and partnering agencies prepare for emergencies by testing their ability to vaccinate thousands of people within a few hours. During the October 30 exercise, visitors will be able to obtain seasonal flu shots at two locations in Bakersfield:
- Bakersfield College's southeast parking lot adjacent to Memorial Stadium off Mt. Vernon
- CSUB's parking lot E, off Camino Media, near the Icardo Center
Student nurses from both institutions will administer the shots to individuals in vehicles, which mimics the actual vaccination process during an emergency. The entire process will be closely monitored to help public agencies better work together. More than 3,400 vaccines will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis and are free to the community.
Children 17 or younger must be accompanied by an adult. Minimum age to receive a vaccination is two years old.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and results in 25-50 million infections and 36,000 deaths in the United States each year.
Influenza symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, and occasionally stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
The influenza virus is spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it and then touching your nose or mouth. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year.
You cannot catch the flu from the vaccination. The vaccination uses a dead virus and cannot cause you to get the flu. The vaccine usually becomes effective two weeks after being administered; therefore, the best time to be vaccinated is October to November. However, it can still be beneficial to get the vaccine even later as typical flu season runs from mid-December through March.
Though all persons over 6 months of age should get a flu shot each year, those most at risk for influenza disease complications are: those in nursing home; individuals over 50 years of age; persons with chronic diseases of the heart, lung, and kidneys, or who have diabetes, asthma, immunosuppressant, or severe forms of anemia; women who may be pregnant during flu season; children and teens on long-term aspirin therapy. Children six months through five years of age should receive the flu vaccine due to the increased probability of severe illness in this age group. Daycare situations make these children especially vulnerable. Health care workers are also at greater risk for passing influenza infection on to high-risk individuals and should be vaccinated.
An influenza vaccination offers 70 percent to 90 percent protection against infection and can decrease the severity and side effects if you do get sick.
Collaborating agencies are Bakersfield College, CSUB, Kern County Department of Public Health, Kern Medical Reserve Corps, Salvation Army, Bakersfield Fire Department, Kern Medical Center, local Community Emergency Response Teams, Hall Ambulance, and the Bakersfield Police Department.
For more information:Kern County Dept. of Public Health
Media ContactColleen Dillaway, Director of Public Affairs & Communications