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With influenza vaccine readily available this year, health officials at military bases throughout the Pacific are urging everyone to get inoculated.

In previous years when vaccine was less plentiful, military health officials strictly prioritized flu shots, with active-duty personnel getting the first serum.

But with more vaccine available, many health officials are loosening the policy and calling for everyone to be inoculated early this flu season.

“I recommend everyone get it, especially in this transient society,” said Lt. Gene Garland of Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station’s clinic, noting active-duty personnel are required to get shots.

Some bases already have started administering flu shots to active-duty personnel and others. But some still await vaccine shipments before beginning inoculations to those not on active duty or at a higher risk of getting the flu.

“We currently have enough for military personnel,” Ensign Jeremy Wilkinson, a Guam Naval Hospital spokesman, said last week.

As a result, Wilkinson said active-duty personnel are getting shots first.

“Family members are our next priority,” he said, noting influenza is a “very preventable illness.”

Health officials at Yokosuka Naval Hospital in Japan and the 121st General Hospital at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, say they, too, are awaiting vaccine shipments.

At Yokosuka, Naval Hospital spokesman Bill Doughty says flu vaccinations will begin quickly when vaccine arrives.

“We’ll go out to visit active-duty, then ask other folks to come to the hospital,” he said. “We want everyone to get their flu shot.”

At Yongsan, medical officials are awaiting a special vaccine for children 4 and younger.

“It’s on the way; the flu vaccine is expected this week,” Maj. Sharon Quigley, head nurse at the Ambulatory Care Clinic, said Tuesday. “We’ll try to get everyone immunized as quickly as possible.”

Plenty of vaccine already is on hand for adults and children older than 4, she said.

“We’re not turning anyone away,” she said, adding that personnel arriving at Yongsan and Camp Red Cloud are being inoculated as part of their in-processing.

Yongsan schools will host special shot clinics for children and their parents Nov. 3-5, Quigley said.

Health-care officials at Camp Zama, Japan, also are planning shot clinics. Flu shots were available Tuesday to selected personnel, said Lt. Col. John Latch of Zama’s immunization clinic.

“Shot teams will be visiting several areas,” he said, adding residents of the base and associated housing areas can expect shot clinics to be scheduled for areas near them.

Other than the shot clinics, Latch said immunizations generally will be available in November and December at the clinic. And they’re free, he said.

For more information, residents should contact their base medical clinic or hospital.

Flu facts

Influenza is a viral lung infection that can lead to pneumonia.

It’s spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact with respiratory secretions. Symptoms can include a fever, aches, chills, coughing and a sore throat.

Annually, more than 20,000 Americans die from flu-related complications; another 114,000 are hospitalized.

Those most at risk are adults older than 65, children younger than 2 and individuals with chronic illnesses such as asthma, kidney problems, heart disease and diabetes. Women pregnant less than 3 months also are highly susceptible.

The peak flu season is from November through March.

This year, more than 85.5 million doses of flu vaccine are available to U.S. citizens.

— Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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