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Dallas County Health Dept. Dispensing Flu Vaccines

DALLAS (CBS11 NEWS) - Although September temperatures in North Texas still flirt with the triple digits—health officials say it is in fact time to start thinking about the flu.  The Dallas County health department is already dispensing the adult vaccine and encouraging the community to make vaccination a priority now.

"Over 30,000 deaths in the United States [are] related to flu complications," says Zachary Thompson, Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.  "We're saying come on in now while we have plenty of the flu vaccine."

Health officials say it takes roughly two weeks for the flu vaccine to confer immunity to the disease, and they would like as many people as possible to get vaccinated before the holiday travel season gets underway.  "People start travelling in November for Thanksgiving break, and as you travel across the country, you don't know where a flu outbreak may be.  So protect yourself now."

This early in the season, vaccine supplies across North Texas are still erratic.  Dallas County has plenty of the adult vaccine; but, is still waiting on supplies to serve children and seniors.  And new this year, they're also waiting for supplies of what's called a 'quadrivalent' vaccine that protects against four anticipated flu strains—instead of the three strains included in the injectable version.  But, many grocery store pharmacies we checked are well stocked with the quadrivalent mist.

"There's really not that much difference in terms of protection," says Andy Frasco, a Pharmacist with Tom Thumb, "three strains of the flu virus, versus four strains of the flu virus… what we want is people being protected."

Frasco says the in store pharmacy has already dispensed about a dozen doses of the flu vaccine and they're fielding calls from other customers wondering if supplies are available and if they should get the vaccine now.  He says the answer to both questions is an emphatic yes.

"We used to say wait until October 1st," says Frasco.  "That's just not the case anymore.  We're telling people with chronic disease states like asthma, diabetes, COPD—they need to get the flu vaccine as soon as it's available to protect themselves and to protect everyone else in their families and who they're around."

Experts are also warning consumers that the quadrivalent injectable is being produced in very limited supplies, so the extra protection it may provide is not worth postponing vaccination plans, waiting for it to become available.

Local health officials are also encouraging parents to act early after two local children died of the flu last year.

"As soon as it comes in, we want parents to come in immediately," says Thompson.  "Those pediatric deaths are really sad, because they're preventable."

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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