Durham County

Still haven’t had the flu vaccine? Here’s how to get protected for free.

In this 2015 file photo, a nurse gives administers a flu vaccine shot. Three are pharmacies, including a pair in Durham, will be offering free flu vaccinations beginning Monday.
In this 2015 file photo, a nurse gives administers a flu vaccine shot. Three are pharmacies, including a pair in Durham, will be offering free flu vaccinations beginning Monday. Associated Press

If you still have not had a flu shot, a local pharmacy is making 300 of the shots available for free at three different clinics.

The Josefs Pharmacy in Durham and Raleigh and the Main Street Pharmacy in Durham will offer the vaccinations beginning Monday, Jan. 22, and continuing through Wednesday, Jan. 24. Each pharmacy will make 100 free shots available, said Finny Joseph, president and director of pharmacies for the three stores.

As of Jan. 6, the Centers for Disease Control reported widespread influenza activity in all 48 contiguous states and Alaska. Hawaii reported regional outbreaks, and the District of Columbia, local outbreaks. Joseph said he hears about new cases of flu daily in his pharmacies, and wanted to do something to lessen the severity of the outbreak. Cases are “still getting reported every day,” Joseph said. “We hear in the pharmacy every day that somebody caught the flu,” he said.

Joseph is asking people who want the free vaccines to register so that his staff will not have to handle high numbers of people at the same time. To register at one of the stores, visit josefspharmacy.com/flu.

North Carolina has had 26 deaths from the flu since the season began Oct. 1, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. (Flu season begins in October and continues through May.) During the 2016-2017 flu season, the state had 218 influenza-related deaths, according to state figures.

Late in 2017, public health officials urged people to get vaccinated, in spite of reports that the vaccines for the 2017-2018 flu season may not be as effective as originally predicted. The flu vaccines used in Australia during its flu season, similar to those used in the United States, proved only about 10 percent effective against the A(H3N2) strain of the virus, according to news reports.

Public health officials continue to urge those who have not been vaccinated to do so. The vaccine also protects against other strains of the flu, not just H3N2, and people who have not had the vaccine should still get it, said Arlene Seña, laboratory director for Durham Public Health, and an associate professor with UNC’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

Even if you get the flu despite the vaccine, chances are good that your case will be less severe, the Centers for Disease Control states.

The old and the very young also are susceptible to severe illness and will benefit from the vaccine, Seña said. But healthy adults can also get complications from flu, and should get vaccinated, she said.

On Dec. 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that influenza activity had increased significantly in recent weeks, with influenza A(H3N2) viruses predominating so far this season. In the past, A(H3N2) virus-predominant influenza seasons have been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in persons aged 65 years and older and young children compared to other age groups, the center reported. In addition, influenza vaccine effectiveness in general has been lower against A(H3N2) viruses than against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 or influenza B viruses, the report stated.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

Where to get your flu shot

▪  Monday, Jan. 22, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Josefs Pharmacy, 2100 New Bern Ave., Raleigh

▪  Tuesday, Jan. 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Main Street Pharmacy, 213 W. Main St., Durham

▪  Wednesday, Jan. 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Josefs Pharmacy, 3421 N Roxboro St., Durham

To prevent lines and long waits, flu shots are only available with advance registration. The registration link is https://www.josefspharmacy.com/flu.