Free FluMist vaccine still available

Sunday, February 1, 2009 | 4:13 p.m. CST; updated 12:02 a.m. CST, Monday, February 2, 2009

COLUMBIA — The Health Department continues to offer free FluMist vaccines to Boone County residents.

 The Columbia/Boone County Health Department has been dispensing the nasal mist since December. FluMist is meant for healthy people who aren't pregnant and who are from 2 to 49 years of age.

While the injectable flu vaccine is made up of dead virus cells, FluMist consists of attenuated — or weakened — live virus cells.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of FluMist in 2003.

Eddie Hedrick, emerging infections coordinator for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the live virum in the nasal mist "elicits rapid response, especially in the case of people from 2 to 49 years of age."

In those people who are old or very young, Hedrick said, "the live virus could induce an infection because, though attenuated, there is still a presence of live influenza virus, which could reproduce in the body.”

Hedrick said there has been considerable research that shows the nasal mist is safe except for people with chronic heart and lung diseases, airway diseases, women who are pregnant and children who wheeze.

The Health Department also educates people about both the types of vaccines, giving them information sheets, according to Trina Teacutter, a registered nurse at the Health Department. People themselves also ask about the vaccine, the pros and cons, before taking it, she said

The vaccine manufacturer MedImmune donated up to 1 million doses of FluMist vaccines across the country to the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The local Health Department received 1,500 free doses, according to Geni Alexander, public information specialist at the Health Department.

Both the types of vaccines were priced at $20 before the donated doses arrived in December. The price of a flu shot remains the same. Medicare and Medicaid recipients get the vaccines for free.

Alexander said that as of Monday, 20 flu cases have been reported in Boone County. “However, we cannot really predict how it is going to be at the end, as the cases usually peak in late February and early March,” she said.

“People tend to forget about the flu after Christmas," Alexander said. "However, even as taking a flu vaccine is not on the top of their list of things to do, it is still not too late to take the vaccine.”

The vaccine is given at the Health Department, 1005 W. Worley, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Appointments are not needed.


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