By Patricia Deal

Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center public affairs

In support of August being National Immunization Awareness Month, immunization experts at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center are urging people to get flu shots.

On average, between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population develops influenza each year, leading to more than 200,000 hospitalizations from related complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"You don't have to be one of those who suffers. The single best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated each year," said Maj. Rosemary Wosky, with Darnall's Army public health nursing. "The flu shot is simple and easy to get, it's completely safe, and is proven to be the best defense against the flu virus."

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year, according to the CDC and the World Health Organization. Flu shots are usually administered beginning in September and continuing throughout the flu season, which can last as late as May.

Active-duty soldiers are vaccinated first, then high-risk patients and health care workers and then the rest of community.

"Usually, every flu season, we get more than 90 percent of our soldiers completely vaccinated and last year we managed to achieve that rate by the end of November," Wosky said. "We make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to get a flu shot.

"Flu vaccines are available at our military health clinics, and family members and retirees can also choose to get it off-post at local civilian pharmacies. It's reimbursable through TRICARE, and some places offer shots for free."

Despite flu shots' effectiveness and convenience, many are still apprehensive about getting their children or themselves vaccinated.

"It's too bad that many people don't get the shots because they have preconceived notion that the shots aren't safe or won't help," Wosky said. "But I have seen many people who chose not to get their shot one year, be among the first ones in line the next year because they ended up experiencing the flu firsthand."

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