by Patricia Deal, CRDAMC Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas—As COVID-19 still threatens the health and safety of the community, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center healthcare professionals encourage everyone to get immunized against the flu this year.
“This flu season is complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can reduce the complication by being proactive and ensuring we all get the flu shot. While it will not protect you against COVID-19, flu vaccination is an important tool in preventing the influenza infection. Plus, flu vaccination has been shown to help reduce the overall impact of possible respiratory illnesses,” said Capt. Eduardo Mendezlanda, Army public health nurse. “So by getting vaccinated this season, people not only help themselves but also their community because they will reduce potential simultaneous demand to our clinics and hospitals due to COVID-19 and the flu.”
Even if you don’t think you’re susceptible to getting the flu, Mendezlanda said that getting vaccinated yourself means you’re protecting those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness such as babies and young children, older people and people with certain chronic health conditions.
“Protection from flu vaccination sets in after two weeks of receiving the vaccine so please get your flu shot as soon as possible,” Mendezlanda added. “In addition to getting an influenza vaccine, everyone should take flu antiviral medication if you are diagnosed with the flu and your doctor prescribes it.”
The Centers for Disease Control recommends annual seasonal influenza vaccination for everyone six months of age and older and has set a goal that 65 percent of adults and children be vaccinated against the flu. According to the Defense Health Agency, its goal is to meet or exceed that vaccination rate throughout the military by December.
Typically during each flu season, military hospitals vaccinate active-duty servicemembers first, then high-risk patients and health care workers and then the rest of the community.
“But beneficiaries do not have to wait until CRDAMC receives its stock of the flu vaccine and starts the vaccination process to get your shot,” Mendezlanda said. “TRICARE is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible and has put out lots of information on how beneficiaries can get their shot from authorized pharmacies at low or no cost.”
Information from the TRICARE website states that beneficiaries need to verify whether their hospital or clinic has the flu vaccine in stock before attempting to obtain the flu vaccine in the network. If not in stock, they may obtain the flu immunization from any network pharmacy that accepts TRICARE.
However, if a physician or nurse practitioner gives the vaccine, it is considered an office visit and TRICARE will not authorize payment. The Health Department is not a TRICARE authorized establishment, so there may be out of pocket costs to the beneficiary if they utilize their service. (For more detailed information visit: www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/IsItCovered/FluVaccine)
While getting the flu shot is paramount in protecting against the flu, Mendezlanda said you can take steps to decrease your risk of infection.
“You can help prevent the spread of the flu simply by consistently doing everyday preventive actions such as avoiding close contact with those who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth,” he said. Also, it’s important to stay informed and up to date on the latest guidelines by official military health agencies’ and the CDC’s websites.”