Unlike the beginning of fall, which is a date that can be marked on the calendar, the beginning of flu season can be as unpredictable as the virus itself. In preparation, the Townsend Senior Center has moved their annual flu vaccine clinic up a month early. The clinic, which is normally held in November, will be on Oct. 3 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., according to Senior center director Christine Clish. The yearly clinic is offered through the Nashoba Board of Health.
"The state is saying people should start being immunized any time after September," said Carol Horgan, registered nurse and community health manager at Nashoba Board of Health. "I think its better for people to be immunized early in the season in case the flu comes earlier."
The only thing people have to do is arrive; Nashoba Board of Health certified nurses take care of the rest. The vaccine immunizes against three strains of the flu virus in a single dose.
Just be prepared for a potential line.
"We usually get an average of a hundred people," said Clish.
The clinic is open to everyone of all ages. Horgan said it was especially imperative that children and elderly people to get the shot to prevent pneumonia. But she suggests that everyone get immunized.
"A lot of people do die (from the flu). Each year in the U.S. the seasonal flu leads to over 20,000 deaths," she said.
The only exceptions to people who should receive the shot: Anyone with a chicken or egg allergy--because the vaccine is derived from eggs-- anyone who is moderately to severely ill, or anybody with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Aside from that, however, she said anyone and everyone should take advantage of the clinic.
For those whose schedules conflict with the date and time of the Townsend clinic, Nashoba Board of Health offers clinics in all 15 towns that it serves; Nashoba Board of Health registered nurse Sharon Fata said they encourage residents who can't make it to their own clinic to come out to a neighboring town on a different day.
"We just want to get out there and immunize as many people as possible," she said.
Insurance is generally accepted--but even for those whose insurance isn't taken or those without insurance at all, it's no reason to worry: The shot is still administered, free of charge.
"Nobody gets denied because of cost," said Horgan.
Recipients should expect a sore arm the day after the shot, but that's as far as the side effects generally go, said Horgan.
For those who fear getting ill as a result of the shot, Horgan said, "I think that's an urban legend."
If someone has a cold or a fever, they should wait to get the shot as it could cause the cold symptoms to feel magnified. However, generally cold and flu symptoms that turn up immediately following the shot are not from the vaccine itself, said Horgan.
"If I got a shot right now and this afternoon I begin to get cold-like symptoms, I think I would have gotten cold-like symptoms without the flu shot," she said.
However, she added, if you have a big event coming up, you might want to schedule your shot around it, in the case that your is aching.
"If it's a Thursday and you have your son's wedding on Saturday, I would wait to be on safe side. I get a flu shot every year, and except maybe a little sore arm, some years I didn't know I had it," said Horgan.
A complete list of Nashoba Board of Health flu clinics is available online at nashoba.org.