Okinawa medical facilities prepare to give flu immunizations
CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — Medical clinics on Okinawa soon will be giving immunizations to battle the upcoming influenza season.
U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa has ordered 25,000 doses of flu vaccine, and the 18th Medical Group on Kadena Air Base has 12,000 doses headed its way, according to officials from both organizations.
The naval hospital is receiving an initial shipment of 10,000 doses and was to begin administering the shots Monday, according to Lt. Cmdr. Colette Michaletz, the hospital’s head of preventive medicine.
The clinic on Kadena Air Base has received 1,050 influenza vaccinations and will begin giving shots soon, according to a base spokeswoman.
The first to receive the shots will be designated active-duty personnel, “high-risk beneficiaries” and medical workers.
Those considered at high risk, Michaletz said, are children 6 to 23 months old, adults 65 and older, anyone between the ages of 2 and 64 who has chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, residents of long-term care facilities, children 6 months to 18 years old on chronic aspirin therapy, health-care workers with direct patient contact, and household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months old.
Michaletz said the hospital will set up “shot exercises” to immunize active-duty personnel.
People in the high-risk category can get their shot from the immunization clinic at their primary-care facility.
At Kadena, the first shots will be given to those in the high-risk groups and servicemembers, the spokeswoman said.
All others eligible on the air base will be vaccinated when the rest of the vaccine arrives, which should be mid- to late November, she said.
The naval hospital has the same plan, Michaletz said.
In an average year, between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population comes down with the flu, Michaletz said.
Of those who do, about 200,000 are hospitalized due to complications, and roughly 36,000 people die from the flu.
Flu complications can range from dehydration to pneumonia, and worsening of chronic medical conditions to sinus problems and ear infections in children.
“By far, the single best way to prevent the flu is for individuals — especially people at high risk for serious complications from the flu — to get the vaccination each fall,” she said.
October and November are the best times to receive the immunization to ensure maximum protection, she said.
Among other ways to prevent catching or spreading the flu: Avoid contact with those who are sick; stay home and avoid others when you are sick; cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, not your hand, when coughing or sneezing; wash hands frequently; and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth — germs are often spread this way after a person touches a contaminated object.
For more information on when flu shots are available or to determine whether you or a family member are considered “high risk,” contact your primary care clinic.