It's that time of year again when clinics begin offering flu vaccines. Fort Myer's Rader Clinic has a flu shot clinic every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Spates Community Center.
All Department of Defense civilian employees with valid Common Access Cards as well as all DEERS eligible beneficiaries may receive the flu vaccination. This year's vaccine comes in two forms, shot and mist.

The mist vaccine is for any healthy individuals ages two through 39, said Shiela Wilson, nurse manager at Rader Clinic. ''The shot is mainly for healthy 50-plus-year-olds." Wilson said that although folks can request the shot, they inform people that the issue of giving a shot to a mist-eligible patient is a problem if there is a shortage of vaccines. ''The majority of the population we see are 50-plus, and they can only receive the shot. All other recipients can receive the shot or the mist vaccine."

There are four stations a patient visits at the flu clinic before being able to leave. The first station is registration where the patient fills out medical information.

At the second station the patient is screened to go over the forms and make sure they understand the vaccine they will be receiving.

After being screened the patient actually receives the vaccination. Lastly the patient must sit and wait 15 minutes before leaving, for medical reasons. If a reaction is going to occur, it will most likely happen within the first fifteen minutes, said Wilson.

A reaction can be anything from hives to mouth and throat closing up which leads to an ambulance being called.

''This year, they put the H1N1 coverage in the vaccine and they are also going to cover for influenza A and B," said Lt. Col. Stacy Weina, deputy commander for clinical services at Rader Clinic. The difference from last year is that previously those wishing to get the flu vaccine received two different vaccines. This year they have been combined so there will be only one vaccination given.

''The people who are very old, have chronic illness or are very young are the most susceptible groups to get the flu and potentially die from it. If you get the vaccination you're potential for getting really ill and dying from the flu is decreased. Receiving the vaccine does not mean you won't get the flu but it will lessen the symptom," said Weina. ''Thirty-six thousand die a year. That's one out of every 10,000 [who] will die from the flu every year. I think if the media did release that information more people would go out to get the vaccine. Over a year in the U.S. 26,000 get hospitalized," said Weina, who referenced the Center for Disease Control.
The mist and shot vaccine ultimately work to help your body build immunity to the flu, said Wilson.

The mist is a weakened strain of the live virus which works a little better because it is live. The shot is a dead virus, but is better for those with weak immune systems, which is why older folks can only receive the shot form of the vaccination, she said.

Weina said the top two ways to decrease your chances for catching the flu are, ''Number one is good hand washing. Number two, if you know someone has the flu, limit your exposure to them."
Thus far the clinic has administered 1,200 vaccinations, but if the clinic does not receive the volume they need, they will decrease the number of clinics to one a week.

To find out more information about the flu clinics and to get updates on vaccine availability, call 703-696-2994.