VA to provide influenza and pertussis vaccines
The St. Cloud VA Health Care System is joining with the Stearns-Benton Medical Society’s Central Minnesota Community Immunization Campaign to help stop the spread of pertussis, or whooping cough. Pertussis vaccinations will be offered along with annual influenza vaccinations to all Veterans and employees this fall. In 2012, there were over 150 cases of pertussis in Stearns and Benton Counties, and 4,639 confirmed, probable, and suspect cases were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health in 2012. As of August 15, 595 confirmed or suspected cases of pertussis have been reported to MDH throughout Minnesota, and 48 cases have been reported in Stearns and Benton counties. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a disease caused by a bacteria that affects the lungs. Pertussis is spread through the air in droplets produced during coughing or sneezing. The best way to prevent pertussis is for all children to be fully vaccinated on time and for adolescents and adults to get a booster shot. MDH recommends statewide vaccination of children starting at age 10 years, regardless of whether the child is from an area of high incidence. This change is due to persistently high incidence of pertussis disease in children ages 9-12 years. MDH also recommends increased vaccination efforts for incompletely vaccinated children age 7 to 10 years, healthcare workers, pregnant women, persons in contact with infants, and adults in contact with children 10-12 years of age. Dr. Susan Markstrom, St. Cloud VA Chief of staff, says many Veterans initially question the need for pertussis vaccination. “We simply ask them if they are around children and if they want the child to stay healthy, Markstrom said. After hearing that, most simply roll up their sleeves.” The St. Cloud VA’s pertussis program began in March, when a screening and vaccination program for all patients was put into effect. Veterans can find out if they need vaccination at their next provider visit, or they can call their health care team. Flu and pertussis vaccination clinics for Veterans are planned for Oct. 2 and 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, in Bldg. 96 on the St. Cloud VA campus. Additional clinics are planned for Oct. 8, from 4 to 7 p.m., and Oct. 12, from 8 a.m. to noon, in the west lobby of the main entrance (Bldg. 1). Spouses, significant others, and caregivers of Veterans can also receive a seasonal flu shot at the St. Cloud VA Medical Center from 9 to 11 a.m., on Oct. 2 and 3. A fee of $29 is required, and may be paid in cash or billed to the individual’s health insurance. Spouses, significant others, and caregivers should bring their health insurance card to the clinic. Additional flu and pertussis clinics are planned at the VA outpatient clinics in Alexandria, Brainerd, and Montevideo. All Veterans are encouraged to enroll in the VA health care system. For information on enrolling for VA health care, contact the St. Cloud VA HCS Eligibility Office at (320) 255-6340. Further updates to the flu shot program at the St. Cloud VA will be announced on the flu shot information line at (320) 255-6444.