In the coming weeks, local commands will start announcing their schedules for giving flu shots. They report that plenty of vaccine is available.

The vaccine is expected to arrive around Oct. 15 at Army clinics in Europe, according to Carolyn Hurst, military vaccine coordinator for the Heidelberg, Germany-based European Regional Medical Command.

The shots are mandatory for active-duty military members.

The vaccine is designed to fight three strands of flu virus that are expected to dominate this year, according to Dr. (Lt. Col.) William Corr of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the command’s preventive medicine consultant.

“The viruses are like civilizations,” Corr said. “They come and grow and get bigger and bigger, and then diminish, and other viruses come forth and dominate.

“Some families (of viruses) dominate more than others. Those are the ones we immunize against.”

Navy clinics usually receive vaccines in November, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Steven Galvan, a spokesman with Naval Forces Europe/Sixth Fleet in Naples, Italy.

Clinics and commands would then coordinate when and where shots are given, Galvan said.

Airmen can also expect to hear through their commands when the shots will become available, according to Lt. Col. Megan McCormick, command public health officer and health promotion director for U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s Office of the Surgeon General.

“No expected shortages this year — (we) should get full stock ordered and don’t anticipate any rationing,” McCormick said in an e-mailed response.

She said that bases would put together their own plans for administering the shots after they receive the vaccine, which would likely be in early October.

The flu season starts in November and December, Corr said, when viruses that were born, often in faraway places, reveal themselves in the U.S. and Europe. People’s susceptibilities are also increased during the winter when windows are closed and viruses are trapped indoors.

Two years ago there was a shortage of flu vaccine because one of the manufacturers was removed from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of approved sites.

This year, manufacturers are expected to produce and distribute more than 100 million doses of vaccine for U.S. markets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That would be at least 17 million more doses than were distributed in any prior year.

How to avoid the flu

Tips for protecting oneself against getting the flu:

Get vaccinated each fall.Avoid close contact with people who are sick.If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.Washing hands often will help protect you from germs from handshakes, doorknobs, computer keyboards and other sources.Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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