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Vaccinate for seasonal flu, say health officials
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The H1N1 swine flu vaccine may be at least a month away, but the time to vaccinate against seasonal flu is now, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency.

"As the flu season is approaching, it is important to take action to protect yourself and your loved ones against the seasonal flu. The best way is to get vaccinated," said Dr. John Walker, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer.

The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency announced Tuesday that its annual low-cost senior and adult only seasonal flu vaccination clinics will begin on Sept. 21 this year.

The clinics are intended to vaccinate those aged 19 or older who are at high risk for "serious health complications from the seasonal flu," particularly those age 50 or older, those pregnant, or those with high-risk heart and lung conditions, diabetes or asthma. Additionally, those who care, live with, or have extended contact with either those in the high-risk groups or children younger than 6 months of age should also be vaccinated.

The vaccine will not protect against H1N1 swine flu, but will immunize adults against three seasonal influenza strains, according to County health officials. The H1N1 vaccine is expected in October and should be taken in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine, said Walker.

Ceres will play host to a county seasonal flu immunization clinic on Monday, Sept. 28. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Ceres American Legion Memorial Building at the corner of Ninth and Lawrence.

Hughson will host a clinic on Tuesday, Sept. 29, between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the Hughson Community Center, 2307 4th St., Hughson.

A $20 administration fee will be charged, but no one will be turned away due to an inability to pay. Cash, check, Medicare Part B with no HMO, and Medi-Cal will be accepted.

County Health asks those whose insurance will not cover their immunization at the County clinics - including Health Net Seniority Plus, Kaiser Senior Advantage, PacifiCare Secure Horizons, and private insurance customers - to instead seek the vaccine from their primary care physicians or local pharmacies.

Nancy Fisher, assistant director of HSA Public Health Services, said it's a little early to estimate just how bad this year's flu season will be, but that residents shouldn't ignore the dangers of seasonal influenza just because of the press-worthy H1N1 swine flu.

"We can only approach a flu season planning for the worst and hoping for the best," Fisher said. "Our feeling is the more people that get the flu vaccine, the less likely it is we'll have a difficult flu season."