Oswego County Health Department offers high-dose flu vaccine for those aged 65 and older

OSWEGO, NY – Flu activity is picking up in Oswego County. Across New York State, flu has been widespread for four weeks. In Oswego County, two lab-confirmed flu cases were reported in recent weeks.

“We fully expect to see this increase continue in the coming weeks,” said Jodi Martin, supervising public health nurse with the Oswego County Health Department. “We started flu clinics in early October, with both the regular and high-dose flu vaccines. However, the first several hundred high-dose flu shots ran out quickly. We now have additional high-dose flu vaccines on-site and ready to be
administered to the public.”

The high-dose influenza vaccine is for individuals aged 65 years and older. It is meant to give older people a better immune response and thus, better protection against flu.

Oswego County Senior Public Health Educator Diane Oldenburg said, “Getting a flu shot now can protect you from illness this season, even though the season has already started. The CDC recommends vaccinating everyone six months of age and older. In this COVID-19 pandemic, flu vaccine is especially important because  it can reduce flu severity and prevent hospitalizations – critical considerations at a
time when the health care system is already burdened by COVID-19.”

Martin added, “It’s important to take advantage of the protection the vaccine does offer. Flu vaccination also may also reduce the severity of your symptoms if you do get sick.”

The flu is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death. Everyone six months of age and older is recommended to get vaccinated against the flu every year. Those experiencing flu-like symptoms should contact their health care provider to discuss the need
for antiviral medications.

“This is particularly important for those at high-risk for complications from the flu,” said Martin. “They include children younger than 2 years and adults 65 years of age and older; those with chronic health conditions like asthma, cardiovascular disease, renal disease, compromised immune systems, neurologic disorders, diabetes and cerebral palsy; women who are pregnant; and those that are morbidly obese, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater.”

Oldenburg said that getting the flu vaccine is not only easy, but it’s the most important thing that people can do to protect themselves and their families from the flu. “In addition,” she said, “Everyone should practice every day healthy habits to help prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.”

These healthy habits include:
 Wash hands frequently.
 Cover coughs and sneezes.
 Stay home if you are sick and keep sick children home.
 Stay away from people who are sick.
 Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, local health departments, pharmacies, health centers and by many employers.

The Oswego County Health Department Office offers flu vaccinations, including high-dose flu shots, at its office at 70 Bunner St., Oswego. Vaccines are available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. by appointment only. Call (315) 349-3547 to schedule an appointment.

The high-dose vaccine – available for seniors aged 65 years and older – costs $71 and is covered by Medicare. Regular flu vaccine for those aged 6 months and older is $37. Pediatric vaccines for children aged 6 to 36 months is $36.

People should bring their insurance cards with them. The Oswego County Health Department can bill UMR (Pomco Select only), Excellus BCBS, Fidelis, United Health Care (Community Plan only), Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicaid, and Medicare. All patients should bring their insurance benefit cards with them to the immunization clinic.

For those who are covered by other insurance providers, the Health Department will provide a receipt that may be submitted to the provider for possible reimbursement. For those who are uninsured, the Health Department may be able to provide the vaccine at no cost or a reduced rate through the New York State Vaccine for Adults program. No one will be turned away due to inability to pay.

The Oswego County Health Department reminds residents that it’s not too late to protect themselves from the flu and get vaccinated now if they haven not done so already.

For more information about the flu or getting a flu shot, call 315-349-3547.