REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--With a smile on her face, Col. Elizabeth Johnson, commander of Fox Army Health Center, rolled up her sleeve Thursday and received the first flu shot of the year at Redstone Arsenal.

"The annual Influenza Vaccine Immunization program is a significant component of Force Health Protection," Johnson said.

"People die every year from the flu," Maj. Debra Murray, chief of preventive medicine at Fox, said. "The best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year. The flu shot doesn't take long, it's basically painless, and it protects you during the entire flu season."

Fox Army Health Center began offering active duty Soldiers flu shots Sept. 13 and will offer them again Sept. 22 from 3 to 5 p.m. in Preventive Medicine. Other dates for active duty will be announced. Tricare Prime with providers at Fox will be offered flu shots during scheduled appointments beginning Sept. 19. Beneficiaries -- active duty and their family members, military retirees and their family members -- may receive their shots Sept. 27 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Fox, Oct. 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Commissary (adults age 18 and older only), and Oct. 22 from 8 a.m. to noon at Fox.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older should receive a vaccine every year, particularly those that are immune compromised, such as small children, older adults, and those with medical conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, or who may be undergoing treatment for cancer.

"A lot of people have a lot of apprehension about the flu shot -- they think, 'I'm going to get sick,'" Pamela Rainey, a registered nurse at Fox, said. "The flu shot is not there to make people sick. It's a preventive step. It's important to get the shot because those who don't get the shot get the flu and create a new strand."

Individuals should receive a vaccination every year, Rainey said, as new strands develop and each year's seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three strands that are expected to be the most common. Flu symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. The sooner an individual can receive the vaccine, the better.

"It's good to get the flu shot early because when and how long the flu season lasts varies from year to year," Rainey said. "By December or January, nine out of 10 people have already been exposed and created a new strand."

Flu shot screening forms and Vaccine Information Statements for adults and pediatric vaccines will be available for printing on the Fox website,, beginning Sept. 19. For more information, call 955-8888, ext. 1441 or 1442.