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Editorial: It's not too late for flu protection

Influenza season is just getting underway in Minnesota - if you haven't already done so, it's not too late to get vaccinated against what can be a serious disease.

State health officials say nearly everyone should get vaccinated and there are more options for doing so than ever before.

An ideal time to get vaccinated is during Minnesota's annual Ban the Bug campaign.

It is a collaborative effort to provide Minnesotans with opportunities to get their annual influenza vaccination.

Local public health agencies, nonprofit groups and health care organizations across the state will sponsor influenza vaccination clinics during Ban the Bug week and beyond. Flu vaccinations are now given at a wide variety of places, including doctor's offices, local health department clinics, and community settings as well as in retail pharmacy and worksite locations.

Besides the traditional flu shot, there is a nasal spray available for healthy people between ages 2 and 49. There is also a new product that uses a very small needle to inject the vaccine into the skin layers only.

Influenza vaccination is now recommended for everyone six months and older unless they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. It is especially important that those at high risk for serious complications from influenza be vaccinated. These include pregnant women, seniors, young children and those with chronic medical conditions.

Children under six months of age cannot receive influenza vaccine, so household contacts and caretakers should be vaccinated to protect the very young.

It's important to get influenza vaccine every year, health officials said. The vaccine often changes from year to year because the strains of virus circulating around the world can change every year and the level of protection wanes over the course of a year. This year there are two new strains plus the H1N1 strain in the vaccine.

Minnesota recorded its first official case of influenza early this season and the virus is currently circulating at low or "sporadic" levels in the state. Flu season can peak anytime between January and April, so getting an influenza vaccination now can provide months of protection.

To locate the flu clinic nearest you, go to the MDH Influenza website at and choose Find a Flu Shot Clinic.

The cost of vaccinations will vary at each site. There is no cost to people with Medicare Part B and some other insurance plans, provided they bring their Medicare or other insurance cards with them. Those seeking shots are asked to wear short sleeves, perhaps under a sweater if it's cold, to make getting the shot easier and more comfortable.

Flu shots also may be given at other locations and times not listed on the MDH website. Check with your physician's office or regular walk-in clinic about getting vaccinated against the flu.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Take action now to protect yourself and your loved ones - get vaccinated against the flu.