Flu vaccinations more critical than ever

7 Jan 2011 | Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune has been informing and educating the civilian populace of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune about the influenza vaccinations for the past few months. However, with the flu season in full swing, the hospital’s satellite departments are seeing fewer people to vaccinate than hoped.

Now, the need to vaccinate oneself and family members is greater than ever. Jan. 5, a 15-year-old died from influenza complications; the teenager had not been immunized by the vaccine.

“That teenager was the first flu-related death in North Carolina for this flu season,” said Glenda Aultowski, a community health nurse with the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune’s Health Promotion and Wellness department. “This time of the month is crucial to receive the immunization, but we’ve been getting less participants than last year.”

On average, 41,000 people in the United States die every year from the flu, and the influenza vaccination, either in the injection form or the nasal mist, is vital in preventing the influenza virus from invading the respiratory tract in the human body.

“January and February are the worst months for the flu, but sometimes the season can last through May,” said Aultowski. “It’s still not too late to receive the vaccination, and with the recent death, it’s more important than ever.”

Service members aboard Camp Lejeune are required to receive the immunity vaccination, but it’s up to the civilian section to get it themselves. This is why the NHCL hosts frequent events where civilians can go to be immunized as well as receive information.

“There are approximately 86,000 non-military personnel aboard or in relation to service members aboard the base,” said James Askins, department head of the NHHPW department. “However, last year the Naval Hospital and its branches immunized around 8,000 people, and this year we’re at only half that.”

That doesn’t include the number of civilians who received immunizations out in town. This flu season was the first time Tricare allowed beneficiaries to get the vaccination through local pharmacies if it was more of a convenience to the recipient. Children 18 years old and younger must have a doctor or nurse present when receiving it out in town.

“A big reason why a lot of people don’t want the immunizations is the common misconceptions they hold about the vaccination,” said Aultowski.

One of the main ideas people have about the flu shot and nasal spray is that, due to the vaccinations being derived from the flu virus itself, they have a chance of catching the virus. However, the shot form is taken from dead flu viruses, while the nasal spray viruses are weakened to a state where they are unable to culture inside the body past the nose.

“If people are unsure about risks or possible allergies toward the vaccinations, everything they’ll need to know is on the website,” said Aultowski.

Receptions of the influenza vaccinations are much slimmer than that of last year, and now with North Carolina’s first flu-related death this season, the need to be educated and receive the inoculation is highly important.

For more information about the flu vaccinations, visit the website or call the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune Health Promotion and Wellness department at 451-7589.