With flu activity early, vaccines urged

Published 2:14 am Saturday, November 3, 2018

A new flu drug that just gained Food and Drug Administration approval isn’t available locally yet, but flu shots are, and health care officials say prevention is still more effective than the cure. 

On Oct. 24, the FDA approved the first new flu drug in 20 years, Xofluva, which is said to be about as effective as Tamiflu in shortening flu symptoms.

The medication has not hit shelves in Covington County pharmacies yet, but would likely be prescribed if it were. Local pharmacist Debbie Maraman said she’s already seen 20 cases of the flu in the past two months.

“We have had about 20 positive cases of the flu here,” Maraman said. “We have been treating it for two months and are actively administering flu shots.”

She encourages people to take the shot.

“We can give the flu shot to patients eight years old and up,” Maraman said. “Anyone under than that age has to go to a physician. Also, if a patient has Medicaid as their insurance, they have to be at least 18 for us to administer a flu shot. If they have Medicaid and they are under 18 years old, they have to go to a physician for the flu shot.”

Darby’s Village pharmacist Helen Ann Alverson said that the new anti-flu drug is not yet available for distribution. 

“Since it is so new, we can’t even order it yet,” Alverson said. “But once it becomes more available we may.”

According to a press release from the FDA, when treatment of the flu is started within 48 hours of becoming sick, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time patients feel sick. Having more treatment options that work in different ways to attack the virus is important because flu viruses can become resistant to antiviral drugs. This novel drug provides an important, additional treatment option.

Flu shots this week

With flu season already in motion, Andalusia City Schools is collaborating with Health Zero to offer a school-based clinic for influenza vaccines on Thurs., Nov. 8.

The clinic will be held at both the elementary school and the high school and will be available to any enrolled Andalusia City Schools student regardless of insurance.

“This is a great opportunity and convenience for our students to receive the vaccine with minimal disruption to their school day,” Head nurse Melinda Carrasco said. “In 2017, there were 14 outbreaks in Alabama that involved nine schools and affected over 2,000 students and staff. This impacted communities, parents, staff, and students. Locally, last year we had over 100 confirmed cases of the flu among our students and staff here at ACS. This disease is very costly and often preventable with a vaccine.”

Carrasco hopes that parents will be proactive in immunizing their child this year, because she believes that it is the best preventative measure to minimize the spread of the disease.

“Parents have several choices available when it comes to vaccinating their child,” Carrasco said. “Students may receive vaccines from the local health department, their physician, local drug stores, and now at school. It is impossible to predict how severe the spread will be this year, but we have already received reports of flu as early as August. Peak flu season is typically December through February, and it takes about two weeks after receiving the immunization for the antibodies to develop in the body that will protect against the disease.”

Any parent with questions regarding the school-based clinic can contact Carrasco at 334-222-7569 extension 63228.