The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is encouraging eligible military Veterans throughout the state to get a free influenza vaccination at the nearest VA Maryland Health Care System medical center or outpatient clinic beginning Monday, September 10, 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people get their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as the vaccine becomes available in their community.
Vaccination before December is best since this timing ensures that protective antibodies are in place before flu activity is typically at its highest. The CDC continues to encourage people to get vaccinated throughout the flu season, which can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
Influenza is more than a bad cold – it is a serious disease. More than 36,000 people die from the flu each year in the United States, with another 226,000 requiring hospitalization from flu related complications. Veterans enrolled with the VA Maryland Health Care System can get free flu shots at the following VA walk-in clinics:
Eligible Veterans do not need an appointment to get a vaccination during one of the walk-in clinics. Veterans can also receive their vaccination from the VA Maryland Health Care System during their annual primary care visit.
As an added convenience, the VA Maryland Health Care System will be offering a Drive-Thru Flu Shot Clinic for enrolled Veterans in the parking garage at the Baltimore VA Medical Center on Saturday, October 20, from 9 a.m. to Noon. As part of the Drive Thru Flu Shot Clinic, Veterans will be able to get their flu vaccination without having to get out of their car.
Eligible Veterans should bring their VA identification card to the Drive-Thru Flu Shot Clinic to expedite the process.
Vaccination is especially important for people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, chronic bronchitis, a weakened immune system, and HIV. Besides these groups, the VA also recommends that all Veterans age 50 or older receive the vaccine. The influenza virus changes every year, so it is important to get a flu shot every year. If enrolled Veterans have questions about the flu vaccination or ways to prevent influenza, please contact your VA primary care provider or call the Telephone Care Line for the VA Maryland Health Care System at 1-800-865-2441. Veterans who want to enroll for VA health care can contact the Eligibility & Enrollment Office for the VA Maryland Health Care System Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324 or visit www.maryland.va.gov and click "Become a Patient."