JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Staff members at Brooke Army Medical Center are getting geared up for the upcoming flu season.
“It is even more important to get a flu vaccine this year to decrease the impact of respiratory illness within the community and decrease the stress on a healthcare system already dealing with a pandemic,” said Army Maj. Sharon D. Douglas, chief of Public Health Nursing at BAMC. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with influenza manufacturers to ensure extra vaccines are available this flu season; however, we are aware that there may be shipping delays due to the pandemic.”
In anticipation of shipping delays, BAMC staff ordered the vaccines in December 2019.
The CDC recommends people get their flu vaccine in September or October; however, vaccinations should continue into and beyond January as long as flu viruses are circulating. There are multiple vaccines available – with different types of vaccine available for younger and older patients. During the 2019-2020 flu season, BAMC staff will be administering vaccines to beneficiaries as young as six months old.
The CDC’s website states it is likely that flu viruses and the virus that cause COVID-19 will both be spreading throughout the fall and winter. Therefore, patients need to ensure they take advantage of their ability to receive a flu vaccine. The CDC recommends that all people six months and older get a yearly flu vaccine.
Children between six months and eight years of age who have not been vaccinated before will require two doses of the flu vaccine for their age group, said Douglas. The doses must be spaced at least four weeks apart to provide adequate protection. Children who have been vaccinated before need only one dose.
BAMC will have available again this year the high dose flu vaccines for beneficiaries 65 years and older.
The high dose flu vaccine is four times the standard dose in order to trigger a greater immune response and provide better protection.
“Influenza vaccines are ordered based on historical data from previous years,” Douglas said. “BAMC plans to make the vaccines available to the clinics for distribution to their high risk patients as soon as they become available.”
Beneficiaries have a variety of options available to receive a flu vaccine during the current season. They can call 210-916-7FLU (210-916-7358) to for the most up-to-date flu vaccination campaign information. Active duty service members have priority to receive the flu vaccine. All beneficiaries should call ahead to see if the flu vaccine is available in their assigned clinic.
Beneficiaries can also call 877-363-1303 to see if there is a participating network pharmacy with flu vaccine availability. Or, they can search online at www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/IsItCovered/FluVaccine to see if there is a TRICARE authorized provider in their area. However, they may incur a copay for the visit.
With COVID-19 still a present health concern, Douglas said it is important for all patients to get their flu shot as well as observe other safety protocols.
“It is possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time,” she said. “But practicing good hand washing, correctly wearing a mask, and social distancing are effective mitigation strategies for both illnesses.”