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It’s nearly that time of year again — the annual fight against the flu.

U.S. military health officials across Japan and Okinawa say influenza vaccine shipments are arriving and that base clinics and hospitals soon will receive their allotments. Shortages are not expected.

A big change this flu season is that U.S. servicemembers and civilians ages 2-49 will receive vaccine in the form of a mist, similar to a nasal spray, according to a Sept. 27 policy letter issued by the Department of Defense on the upcoming influenza season. That’s assuming the individual is healthy and not pregnant or possibly allergic to the spray.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June 2003, the product is known commercially as FluMist.

Typically, flu season doesn’t start until November or December, with the peak period coming in February.

Flu vaccinations are mandatory for U.S. servicemembers. For civilians, they’re optional but recommended, as long as there are no health issues in question.

Naval Health Research Center data from 2006-07 showed influenza immunization to be 91 percent effective at preventing flu-like illness, according to the DOD’s policy letter. Medical officials hope to exceed 90 percent immunization of military personnel by Dec. 31.

In all, the DOD has ordered 3.44 million doses, which includes 1.8 million dosages that are of the mist type. About 1.5 million doses will remain injections.

U.S. Forces Japan officials did not respond to a query seeking information on what the portion would be for Japan and Okinawa military communities.

Brian Davis, a U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa spokesman, said officials there anticipate the first shipment to arrive this week and that they will begin inoculations for active-duty personnel soon after.

U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa also works closely with the 18th Medical Group at Kadena Air Base in coordinating the dispensing of influenza vaccine to eligible personnel.

“Once the operational forces are immunized, we make it available to the rest of our beneficiaries,” Davis said.

At Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, the immunizations flight expects 50 percent of its shipment to come in this month and the other half in November, said Staff Sgt. Rachel Martinez, a 35th Fighter Wing spokeswoman. “Their first priority is always active-duty members and high-risk patients,” she added.

At Camp Zama, Japan, last Thursday, Maj. Gen. Elbert N. Perkins, the U.S. Army Japan commander, received the annual flu shot in his office as an unofficial startup to immunization season.

Remaining community members, including soldiers, family members and Army civilians, will be able to get vaccinated Oct. 22 at the Camp Zama Community Club, officials announced.

Stars and Stripes reporters David Allen and Jennifer H. Svan contributed to this story.

Flu shot details

Misawa Air Base, Japan

No schedule has been set, but the immunizations flight will offer FluMist for the first time this year. Half of the base’s vaccine shipment will arrive this month and the other half in November.

Yokota Air Base, Japan

For information, call the base hospital’s immunizations clinic at DSN 225-9079.

Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan

For information, contact Yokosuka Naval Hospital’s Preventive Medicine Office at DSN 243-2608.

Camp Zama, Japan

Flu vaccinations will be given Oct. 22 in the Camp Zama Community Club’s Right Wing from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the following personnel categories:

Soldiers, 6-10 a.m.Army civilians, 11 a.m. to noon and 1-2 p.m.Family members, 2-4:30 p.m.After that date, eligible community members may get inoculations at the Zama clinic on a walk-in basis. Call DSN 263-5660 for more information.

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