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The seasonal flu vaccine will be available from Wednesday, the Ministry of Health has announced.

The ministry said the vaccine would be available from doctors and on a drive-in basis at several “Flu Express” locations island-wide.

A spokeswoman added that the flu shot would first be made available to “priority groups” — including healthcare workers and caregivers, elderly people and anyone in long-term care.

People with chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, heart or lung conditions, asthma, sickle cell anaemia and immune system diseases, children aged 6 months to 18 years and pregnant women will also be prioritised.

The spokeswoman said: “The ‘Flu Express’ will allow people to drive to a designated site and receive the flu vaccine while waiting in their car, without having to get out.”

She added: “This will make it easier for some people to access the vaccine, reduce crowds and maintain physical distancing.”

The Flu Express will operate from 10am until 2pm on Wednesday under the Rubber Tree, Middle Road, Warwick; on October 17 at the Hamilton Health Centre car park, 67 Victoria Street, Hamilton; at Penno’s Wharf, St George’s on October 21; and on October 28 on the Somerset Cricket Club field.

Health officials said anyone with a chronic medical condition was advised to tell their doctor when they had been vaccinated.

The spokeswoman added that shots would not be given to people who are allergic to eggs, chicken products, or any component of the vaccine; have had a prior reaction to a flu shot; have a fever or are unwell; have had a seizure in the last 12 months; or have Covid-19 or are under quarantine due to Covid-19.

The ministry said anyone attending a Flu Express site should wear comfortable clothes to allow the nurse easy access to the injection site in the upper arm.

The flu shot will cost $15 for adults and children on a correct cash-only basis, but is free for anyone aged 65 and older.

The ministry added that the vaccine would be available in November from Tuesdays to Thursdays from 2 to 4pm in a pop-up tent outdoors at Hamilton Health Centre.

The spokeswoman said: “The flu vaccine is a safe and highly effective method of preventing most cases of flu. Side effects are rare and usually mild.

“The currently available flu vaccine has been designed to provide protection against the most likely circulating strains of influenza virus for the 2020-21 flu season.

“This vaccine contains four strains. It is an ‘inactivated’ vaccine. It contains killed viruses and therefore cannot cause flu. It is administered by injection and is safe for persons aged 6 months and older.”

She said that the vaccine was recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. Children aged 6 months to 9 years require two shots, given four weeks apart if they are being vaccinated for the first time against the flu.

Anyone under a doctor’s care for a chronic medical condition, as well as children under the age of three, must have a prescription for flu immunisation from their general practitioner.

The spokeswoman said the chance of contracting flu and other upper respiratory infections could be reduced by frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, disposing of used tissues, avoiding crowded places and maintaining social- distancing.

Symptoms of flu develop two to four days after exposure, and often included a sudden onset of sore throat, a runny nose with high fever, headache, backache, muscle pains, fatigue and general malaise. Most people recover after a few days.

But the spokeswoman said: “In some people, flu infection can be quite serious because it may increase their risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia.

“The very young — especially infants under 6 months of age — the frail elderly, pregnant women, and people with other medical conditions are those most likely to develop complications. If cough, high fever, or marked sickness persists beyond a few days, especially in these groups, a physician should be consulted.”

She added: “The symptoms for flu and Covid-19 are similar. Preventing flu may reduce hospital admissions and help discern outbreaks of Covid-19.”

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Published October 12, 2020 at 10:18 am (Updated October 12, 2020 at 4:18 pm)

Drive-in centres to provide flu vaccine

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