Veterans are being reminded — along with all Iowans — to get vaccinated for both the seasonal and H1N1 flu strains. While the flu got a lot of attention in recent months, flu season usually peaks in February and March. Will Ackerman, spokesman for the V-A Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, says veterans can get the flu shot for free.
“It’s really important for our veterans to get the vaccine because it’s the number-one protection against getting the flu,” Ackerman says. “In the past when there were priority categories, veterans were able to get the vaccine if they fit those categories but now we’ve opened it up to all veterans who are eligible for V-A healthcare.” Ackerman says the H1N1 vaccines are being made available to all veterans, not just those in a specific high-risk grouping.
“The vaccinations are at no cost to eligible veterans,” he says. “It’s part of our effort to protect our veterans and to help prevent them from getting the flu.” This is National Influenza Vaccination Week and Ackerman says health care providers are emphasizing the importance of vaccination. He says the V-A wants every veteran protected against these serious illnesses.
“We’re using this as an opportunity to highlight not only the importance of H1N1 vaccine but also the regular seasonal flu (vaccine),” Ackerman says. “It’s really important that our veterans, especially since we have a lot of older veterans, get the H1N1 vaccine and if they haven’t got it, the seasonal flu.”
He notes, we’re entering a very high risk period for the flu. Ackerman says any veteran can contact their local inpatient or outpatient facility to make arrangements to get the vaccine, including at facilities in Omaha, Shenandoah, Iowa City, Des Moines and Marshalltown. The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 40 H1N1 deaths in the state during 2009 and around 700 hospitalizations. State health officials say about one in every ten Iowans had H1N1 flu during the past year.