As flu season begins, public health department offers shots

Nurse Dana Ramirez gives Terry Hernandez a vaccination at the Victoria County Public Health Department in this Advocate file photo.

With the beginning of flu season approaching, the Victoria County Public Health Department is hosting its first two vaccination clinics this week.

The clinics will be from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday at the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St., Suite 102. Starting the following week, clinics will be held on a regular basis on Tuesday and Thursday mornings as well as from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday afternoons.

Flu shots are recommended by the Texas Department of State Health Services for anyone 6 months and older, especially for pregnant women, adults age 65 and older, children up to 5 years old and people with chronic health conditions.

“Once we go into the fall and winter months, we definitely see the increase in flu and other respiratory illnesses in our area,” said David Gonzales, director of the Victoria County Public Health Department. “It’s one of those things that’s especially important for those with existing health conditions.”

The Victoria Fire Department, which hosted flu vaccine clinics for low-income and homeless residents last year, is planning to give out flu shots again this year — and this time, any county resident is eligible, Fire Chief Tracy Fox said.

The department expects to receive about 120 vaccines through a grant from the Texas Medical Association and intends to hold clinics for the public in mid- to late-October.

Flu season typically begins in October, peaks from December through February and ends in May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reported flu cases were drastically reduced during the 2020-21 flu season, which epidemiologists say is likely because of public health precautions taken in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

But Gonzales said it’s possible the county will see more flu cases during this coming season.

“I think this year’s a little different than last year at this time,” he said. “There could be a little bit of an increase from last year — I hope not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.”

At the Public Health Department’s clinics, vaccines will cost $35 for a regular dose and $65 for a higher dose, which is recommended for those age 65 and older.

Those with Medicare and Medicaid will be reimbursed.

The flu shot will also be available at most places where COVID-19 vaccines can be obtained, including pharmacies and doctor’s offices, Gonzales said, although several local pharmacies contacted by the Advocate, including Harding & Parker Drug Store, Central Drug and Rogers Pharmacy, said they either are not offering flu shots this year or are still awaiting shipments of the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens, however, are already booking appointments on their websites.

Both pharmacy chains say the cost of the shot is covered by most private insurance plans.

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Mark Rosenberg reports on local, regional and breaking news for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at mrosenberg@vicad.com or 361-574-1264 or on Twitter at @markrosenberg32. To support local journalism at the Advocate through Report for America, go to VictoriaAdvocate.com/report.

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