It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week

National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 5-11, is a call to all Americans 6 months and older to get their annual flu vaccine if they have not already. Flu remains a significant public health concern, and this week will serve to remind people that there is still time to get a flu vaccine—the only vaccine that protects against flu—to prevent flu illness and potentially serious complications.

We get it to help #fightflu

What is the difference between COVID-19 and Influenza (flu)?

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

More information about can be found here.

The Malheur County Health Department will offer flu vaccines to people on a walk-in basis Wednesday, Dec. 15 and Wednesday, Dec. 29, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the clinic, 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario, or by appointment. Call 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

Source: CDC.gov

FDA, CDC, authorize pediatric COVID-19 doses

Monday, Nov. 1, the FDA authorized use of pediatric doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. That decision was confirmed by a unanimous CDC panel on Tuesday, and again Tuesday evening by the Western States Scientific Safety Workgroup, which confirmed the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for young children. Children ages 5 and older should be vaccinated against COVID-19, but may still have to wait a few days, as shipments of pediatric doses have not yet arrived in Malheur County. In a meeting today, Oregon Health Authority officials reported that the doses should arrive early next week, in time for the next walk-in vaccine clinic at the Malheur County Health Department on Wednesday, Nov. 10, from 1-6 p.m.

Vaccines may also be available at your healthcare provider or pharmacy. We recommend calling first to ensure they have the vaccine in stock and ask if an appointment is needed. Find the list of vaccine providers in the county at malheurhealth.org/covid-19-vaccine. Additionally, vaccine clinics are scheduled at Four Rivers Cultural Center, 676 SW 5th Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 13 and Friday, Dec. 3, hosted by the Oregon Health Authority. Drive-through vaccination clinics at the Ontario Airport Firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St. are scheduled for Saturdays, Nov. 20 and Dec. 11, hosted by Malheur County. Find more information and share the flyers here.

“Vaccination is the single most important and powerful public health intervention in human history. More lives have been saved and more misery averted through vaccination than anything we have ever done,” said Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe. “Along with the many childhood vaccines that prevent disease, we know the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks and protect our community, keep our kids in school, and prevent outbreaks.”

Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine making its way to Oregon

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to include children ages 5 to 11.

The FDA overwhelming voted to support vaccinating younger children and offered these key points for parents and caregivers to consider:

• Effectiveness

o The immune response of children 5-11 years old was comparable to that of teenagers and young adults 16-25 years old.

o The vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 -11.

• Safety

o The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children ages 5-11. No serious side effects were detected in the ongoing study.

Deciding whether to vaccinate a child in your care may not be easy. Malheur County Health Department encourages you to talk with your provider to get your questions answered.

What’s next? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet this week to discuss further clinical recommendations, once those recommendations are made, the Western States Scientific Study Review Workgroup will meet to make a recommendation. We expect these steps to be implemented in the next couple of weeks, and then Gov. Brown will authorize use of pediatric COVID-19 doses in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority, and MCHD, will be prepared to offer doses to children 5-11 shortly thereafter, as will physician’s offices, clinics and pharmacies in the Treasure Valley. Contact your provider to discuss whether the vaccination will benefit your child. More information on the process of approving vaccines in Oregon can be found here.

Flow chart that visually represents and summarizes the information described in this article.

Moderna, J&J boosters available now

The Oregon Health Authority team will administer Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster doses, as well as first, second and third doses of Moderna and Pfizer, first doses of J&J and booster doses of Pfizer today at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 790 NW 9th St., in Ontario, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. At the same time, the Malheur County ICS team will offer COVID-19 rapid testing.

Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the ICS team will offer vaccines, including booster doses, and the OHA will provide COVID-19 testing, with results coming back in a few days.

OHA graphic repeats information in post.

More information about booster doses can be found here.

Information about which conditions make people more likely to get very ill from COVID-19 is here.

If you aren’t sure whether to get your child vaccinated against COVID-19, some information is here.

Some frequently asked questions and their answers are here.

Beginning Nov. 3, every Wednesday in November and December (except the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas), the Malheur County Health Department will offer extended hours in its clinic, opening from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. for walk-in clients who wish to receive a vaccine (COVID-19, flu, childhood vaccines, etc.). Additionally, in anticipation of the FDA and CDC’s authorization of COVID-19 doses for children 5-11 years old, MCHD is planning Saturday drive-through vaccination clinics. More information to follow.

Every person who receives a dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines will receive a $25 gift card.

Are booster doses available? Not yet

Medical experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration Friday recommended that people age 65 and older, as well as those considered at high risk of severe COVID-19 who’ve been previously fully vaccinated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, should receive a booster dose to help maintain the effectiveness of their vaccines over time.

The booster dose should be given at least six months after the second dose was received, and the FDA is reviewing the recommendation to determine whether to add this use to the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine.

Booster doses have not been recommended for people who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It is expected that federal officials will consider booster doses for people who’ve received these vaccines in coming weeks.

The recommendations from the meeting are just the first steps in the process. No boosters will be available to Oregonians until the remaining steps in the process are completed. Here is what’s next:

  • The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will review the FDA’s recommendation Sept. 22-23. The CDC Director then considers the ACIP recommendation and makes any official CDC recommendation for use of boosters. It is anticipated that ACIP will provide additional guidance on who is considered at high risk of severe COVID-19.
  • After FDA and CDC decisions, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup meets Sept. 24 to consider federal recommendations for implementation in California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. Once Western States issues a recommendation, the Oregon Health Authority will support implementation.

Booster doses are expected to be widely available through pharmacies, doctor’s offices and clinics, as COVID-19 vaccine is today.

For older adults and others living in skilled nursing facilities, their residences are equipped to provide booster doses once they are fully authorized.

Medical evidence shows that the COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective in preventing COVID-19 associated hospitalizations and deaths. The boosters were recommended because there was some evidence to show that the immune response the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine produces to protect against COVID-19 disease could begin to wane many months after a person was first immunized, especially in older adults. As with other vaccines, a booster shot will strengthen the body’s ability to prevent disease from the virus that causes COVID-19.

CDC strengthens COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for pregnant people

If you’re pregnant you may be wondering whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently strengthened its vaccine recommendation for pregnant people.  

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people ages 12 and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. 

Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 than people who are not pregnant. Fortunately, severe illness from COVID-19 during pregnancy can be avoided by getting fully vaccinated.  In recent weeks, infections among those who are pregnant have been increasing. With the combination of low rates of vaccinations in pregnant people, the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, and the higher risk of complications from COVID-19 during pregnancy —it’s important to protect yourself if you are pregnant.  

To read more about COVID-19 vaccination before or during pregnancy, visit the Oregon Vaccine News blog

Pregnant person with black shirt, black medium length hair, black shoes, white pants and two speech bubbles.

Encouraging COVID-19 Vaccination at Work

COVID-19 Vaccination for Essential Workers | CDC

Malheur County continues to lag behind Idaho and Oregon state average COVID-19 vaccination rates, meaning many people in our community are still at risk of being infected and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. However, we do have many people who work who are vaccinated and protect themselves and the people they work with and serve. Many outbreaks start at work and cause hardship on the business, those who are sick, and those who must quarantine. We want people to be protected and businesses to thrive through COVID-19 vaccination.

One way people who are vaccinated can help their employer and coworkers is to encourage vaccination at work. Customize the templates below to communicate with staff about the COVID-19 vaccine. Share with business owners and managers and ask if these can be shared widely. Add your own logos and customize text to make it appropriate for your business or organization.

E-mail and Message Templates for Businesses About COVID-19 Vaccines:

  • Introductory Letter This letter can be sent to your branches, offices, teams, or units to encourage review and use of the toolkit materials. The link also includes communication tools like vaccine fact sheets, posters, social media graphics, stickers you can print.
  • Letter to Employees This letter about COVID-19 vaccination information can be sent to your employees.
  • Newsletter Content  This short newsletter-style blurb can be used in e-newsletters or hard copy newsletters that you distribute to employees. Consider a “special edition” newsletter and add information about who to contact for more information.

Thanks to Southwest District Health for sharing their excellent Vaccination Communication Toolkit.

Halloween the Healthy Way

Halloween image with the wording Creatures of Habit
Make choices to stay healthy and strong!

Have a safe and healthy Halloween

Make Halloween festivities fun, safe, and healthy for trick-or-treaters and party guests.

Take steps to prevent the flu and other illness

It’s Halloween and the flu season is here! Keeping hands clean by washing them with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year for the best protection against influenza throughout flu season.

Keep your bite healthy

Brush with fluoride toothpaste. Floss every day. Don’t go batty for sugary treats.

Sleep tight

Don’t look a fright this Halloween! Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of long-lasting diseases and conditions. Adults should get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

Treat yourself to fruits and veggies

Don’t fill up on junk this Halloween. Treat yourself to yummy fruits and vegetables. They make a great healthy snack to serve for Halloween parties.

Be a smoke-free creature of habit

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Make your Halloween activities smoke- and tobacco-free events. Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure.

Prevent injuries

Make sure costumes fit well to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls. Check out a fun coloring book. Color Me Safe! from CDC tells the rhyming story of the “Safe Family,” who take steps to protect themselves from injury at home, on the road, and at play.

Article from the CDC.

Pregnant Women Should Get Flu and Whooping Cough Shots

If pregnant women don’t get vaccinated, they may be endangering their babies as well as themselves.

Call the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 to schedule your flu and Tdap vaccines locally.

Millions of pregnant women in the United States are not getting two vital vaccines that protect not only their health, but their babies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said October 8th, 2019.

The vaccines — against flu and whooping cough — are strongly recommended during every pregnancy. But only about 35 percent of pregnant women in the country are receiving both vaccines, according to a new CDC report, and just over half receive one.

The consequences of missing vaccines for flu and whooping cough, also called pertussis, can be dire.

“Influenza and pertussis, or whooping cough, are serious infections that can be deadly for babies, especially for those who are too young to be vaccinated directly,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC in a briefing. “We are stressing the importance of two safe and effective vaccines for pregnant women and the risks to both women and their babies when these vaccines are not given during pregnancy.”

Whooping cough can be fatal, especially for babies, who cannot get their first vaccine against it until they are two months old. The CDC report said that about 70 percent of people who died from whooping cough in recent years were infants younger than two months.

“When infants get whooping cough they are usually very sick and have difficulty breathing, eating, drinking or sleeping,” Dr. Schuchat said. “Parents may see their baby gasping for air and even turning blue from lack of oxygen.”

When a woman receives the whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy, antibodies are transmitted to the fetus. Those antibodies protect babies when they are born until they can build up their own immunity from a series of five immunizations against the disease. The report said that if women receive the vaccination early in the third trimester of pregnancy, it gives their newborns optimal protection and will prevent nearly 80 percent of whooping cough cases in babies under two months old.

Flu can be particularly risky for pregnant women and can cause complications like premature birth. The report found that pregnant women account for about a quarter to a third of women of reproductive age who are hospitalized for influenza — even though only about 9 percent of women in that age group are pregnant in any given year.

Babies younger than six months — the age at which they can receive their first flu vaccine — are hospitalized from flu much more often than older children and are at greater risk of dying from it. Dr. Schuchat said infants with flu can develop problems like pneumonia, dehydration and swelling of the brain.

“Maternal immunization rates have been steadfastly stuck at about 50 percent,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, chairwoman of the department of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the new report. “We really haven’t moved the needle at all.”

The new report analyzed data on hospitalization and death from flu and whooping cough between 2010 and 2018. The researchers also conducted an online survey this past spring of about 2,600 women who reported being pregnant any time since August 2018. It asked whether the women’s health care providers recommended the vaccines, either by offering to provide them or referring the patients to someone who could, and whether the women agreed to get vaccinated.

About three-quarters of the women surveyed said that during pregnancy their providers recommended the flu vaccine and the Tdap vaccine, which protects against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria. But even among those women, about a third did not get vaccinated, the report said.

The most common reason the women gave for not getting the flu vaccine was a belief it was not effective. The reason they gave most often for not getting the Tdap vaccine was not knowing it is necessary during each pregnancy. For both vaccines, the second most common reason women refused it was concern about whether it was safe for their babies, the report said.

Dr. Jamieson, a former CDC official who now practices obstetrics and gynecology at Grady Memorial Hospital, said that pregnant patients in her practice who declined to get the flu vaccine often said, “they heard bad things about the vaccine, misconceptions that it makes you sick or wasn’t safe,” she said. Some didn’t think they were at risk for flu she said.

Dr. Jamieson said women were generally more likely to accept the Tdap vaccine, possibly because it is newer so there are fewer misconceptions about it. The flu vaccine has been recommended in pregnancy since 1960, Dr. Jamieson said, but the Tdap has only been recommended for pregnant women since 2012.

Vaccines for flu and whooping cough are the only two immunizations recommended for all pregnant women, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which posts a list of vaccines that are considered unsafe in pregnancy and others that can be given under certain circumstances.

Article adapted from the New York Times by Pam Belluck.

GET THE FACTS ABOUT FLU SHOTS

Call 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment for your FREE flu shot at the Malheur County Health Department before the end of October.

Flu season is nearly here. To help you decide when, where, and how to get vaccinated, we compiled answers to some of the most common questions we see regarding flu vaccinations.

Who should get a flu shot?

Everyone over 6 months of age should receive a flu vaccine yearly, unless a doctor has advised otherwise.

But I’m healthy and getting the flu doesn’t seem like a big deal. Why do I need a flu shot?

No one wants to miss out on their vacation or be two weeks behind at work because of a preventable illness. So while you may be able to get through the flu, why take the risk?

During the 2017-2018 flu season, influenza vaccination prevented approximately 7 million flu illnesses, 109,000 flu hospitalizations, and 8,000 flu deaths.

Even if you’re young and healthy, the flu can lead to serious complications that require hospitalization. Getting vaccinated not only helps prevent you from getting ill, it also decreases the severity of illness if you do get the flu and helps protect those around you who cannot receive the shot because of their age or underlying conditions, such as your grandma or your neighbor’s new baby.

Can I get the flu from the flu shot?

No, flu shots do not cause the flu. This is a common concern but, thankfully, not something that happens.

Flu vaccines given via a needle are made with inactivated (killed) viruses that are not infectious or with just certain proteins from flu viruses, so they cannot cause the flu. And, the nasal spray flu vaccine is made with live viruses that are significantly weakened, so they can give protection but not cause illness.

While vaccinations cannot cause the flu, some people do experience mild side effects, including aches and a low-grade fever. However, when these side effects occur, they are generally mild and tend to last only a day or two.

When should I get a flu shot?

The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age receive a flu shot by the end of October. Flu activity generally picks up in the fall and it’s best to get the shot before the virus starts spreading in your community and workplace.

Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season. All children who have previously gotten two doses of vaccine (at any time) only need one dose of vaccine this season. The first dose should be given as soon as vaccine becomes available.

The flu season usually peaks around February, and can last well into the spring. So, even if you miss the recommended window, it is still worth getting vaccinated later in the season.

What’s the benefit of getting a shot now?

It takes two weeks from the time you receive your flu shot to develop full immunity. The sooner you get the shot, the sooner your body can build that full immunity.

Should I get a flu shot if I’m pregnant?

Yes, flu vaccines are safe for pregnant people. They help to protect both the pregnant individual and their baby from the flu.

During pregnancy, people experience changes in their immune system, heart, and lungs that make them more prone to severe illness from flu. According to the CDC, vaccination reduces this risk of serious, flu-associated respiratory infection and hospitalization in those who are pregnant. In addition, pregnant people who receive the flu vaccine are helping to protect their babies from flu illness for several months after their birth, when they are still too young to be vaccinated themselves. 

What if I’m over 65 years old?

The flu can be particularly serious for people 65 and older because human immune defenses weaken with age. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu and potentially serious complications.

There are two vaccines that are specifically recommended for people who are 65 years of age or older: the “high dose” vaccine and the “adjuvanted” flu vaccine, Fluad. Both options have been found to be effective at preventing the flu and the CDC does not state a preference for one vaccine over another. The regular flu shot is also a good option if these products are not available.

Where can I get a flu shot?

If you are local to Malheur County, Oregon, come see us at the Malheur County Health Department! Call ahead for an appointment: 541-889-7279. Walk ins are welcome.

You can use the online HealthMap Vaccine Finder or Public Health’s Find an Immunization Clinic page to easily find nearby pharmacy and clinic locations to get your flu shot. Remember to call ahead to ensure that the vaccine you need is currently available, especially if you are interested in the nasal spray flu vaccine or the intradermal flu vaccine.

If you still have questions about flu vaccinations or want to know more, check out our past blog post on flu vaccination effectiveness  or CDC’s FAQ’s about the 2019-2020 flu season.

Article adapted from Public Health Insider post by Lily Alexander. Photos taken by Heather Hazzan as a part of the Self x American Academy of Pediatrics Vaccine Photo Project.