Influenza vaccine available for service members and DoD personnel in Europe

Heidelberg, Germany - Make an easy and personal investment in good health this season -- roll up those sleeves and get your flu shot! That's the message from Brig. Gen. Elder Granger, TRICARE Europe Lead Agent, Commander, Europe Regional Medical Command, and Command Surgeon United States Army Europe and 7th Army.

According to Granger, an adequate supply of the influenza vaccine is available this year, and is arriving in time to combat the flu season in Europe. The flu season routinely begins here in November and runs through March with the greatest number of influenza cases usually occurring in January. The influenza vaccine will be available at local military treatment facilities for service members and other military healthcare beneficiaries. Commanders will coordinate vaccinations with supporting medical personnel and advise service members on the vaccination process. Information on general population vaccination clinics will be announced in the coming weeks through local news outlets.

Getting vaccinated against influenza is a way to stay healthy this flu season and maintain our military medical readiness according to Granger. "It is important for people to be vaccinated against the flu," Granger said. "In an average year, influenza is associated with more than 20,000 deaths nationwide in the United States. We want to see our soldiers and other beneficiaries stay healthy, and take an active role in health promotion and preventive medicine initiatives - the influenza vaccine helps do this."

This year as the influenza vaccination campaign gets underway, US service members deployed in support of combatant requirements in Iraq, Southwest Asia, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, along with active duty troops afloat, will be the first to roll up their sleeves with the vaccine arriving in early October. Non-deployed service members in Europe will begin getting vaccinated against influenza on Oct. 15th. Priority for the vaccine goes to military personnel directly involved with force protection, health care providers with direct patient contact, patients over 65, patients who have high-risk medical conditions such as cardiac or respiratory illnesses and immune deficiencies, and all other active duty personnel. High-risk patients should consult their local doctors about receiving the vaccine earlier than the general population. The influenza vaccine will be provided to all medical beneficiaries free of charge.

Influenza symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills and muscle aches. Vaccination protection against influenza develops about two weeks after getting the shot and may last up to a year. Additionally, the viruses in the vaccine have been killed, so people do not get influenza from the vaccine. People who have had serious allergic reaction to eggs or to a previous dose of influenza vaccine or people who have a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome should consult with a doctor before getting the vaccine.

The newly publicized intranasal influenza vaccine will not be available at military health care facilities. It is a product that must remain frozen prior to use; is substantially higher in cost than the injectable influenza vaccine and contains the live influenza virus vaccine. The intranasal vaccine is a medical product that should not be administered to asthmatics, immunocompromised patients or patients taking drugs which compromise the immune system. It is also contraindicated in pregnancy, children under five and adults over 50 years old.

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