Army Ready with Vaccine for Flu Season

All soldiers, including active duty, Reserve, and National Guard, are required to be vaccinated against influenza annually. The vaccine will be available at many locations later this month. Photo by Spc. Howard Alperin.

The Army has ordered nearly 2 million doses of vaccine to immunize all soldiers, their families, civilian employees and retirees for the upcoming flu season.

The vaccinations will be available at most installations in October, but each medical facility will set its own schedule for distribution.

Seasonal influenza can start as early as October and run as late as May, but it generally peaks between January and March, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC cautions that new flu viruses can appear which could lengthen the season — though that’s not expected for 2012-2013.

The Army expects to have 90 percent of the force vaccinated by Dec. 17, according to Col. Richard Looney, director of the Army Military Vaccination Program. He said vaccinations would be available at installations as soon as it’s received and until the supply runs out or expires.

“Regardless of previous vaccination history, routine annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons age 6 months and older,” Looney said. “Several studies have demonstrated that post-vaccination immunity declines over the course of a year, thus, annual vaccination is recommended for optimal protection against influenza.”

Looney said about two-thirds of the Army’s order for 2012 consists of vaccine that’s given through intramuscular injection and the remaining third of the order is the type administered via nasal spray.

The dominant influenza strain for the upcoming flu season remains the H1N1 strain from 2009, Looney said, adding that due to outstanding efforts and immunization campaigns of the past few years, people are more aware and likely to be adequately protected during the height of flu season.

Immunization rates climb every year, and Looney said he sees no reason why that trend won’t continue. An annual average of 25 million reported cases, 36,000 deaths and 226,000 hospitalizations occur each year in the U.S. due to influenza infections.

“Immunization is the very best protection against disease and related complications,” Looney said. “Vaccines are safe and effective, and have saved more lives than any other medical measure in history.”

People who should not be vaccinated against the flu without first consulting their physicians include:

• People with severe allergies to chicken eggs

• People who have previously suffered severe reactions to influenza vaccinations

• People with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome

• Children younger than six months of age

• People acutely ill with fevers — those with a mild, common cold and a low-grade fever do not have to wait to be vaccinated.

Vaccination is especially important for the following, in order to decrease the risk of illness:

• Pregnant women

• Children younger than age 5 and especially children under age 2

• People 65 years of age and older

• American Indians and Alaskan natives

• People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions

• People who are morbidly obese

• People who live in nursing homes

Flu vaccinations will be available at no cost to beneficiaries from any TRICARE-authorized provider or at any participating pharmacies. To find a participating pharmacy, call 1-877-363-1303 or go to

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  • I am a huge advocate for the flu vacine. It keeps us healthy and safe. It also keeps us working. However, I do prefer the flu mist over the actual shot.

  • I personally don’t get vaccinated. I have gotten my children vaccinated twice
    though, before the age of two. I never get the flu, because I believe my body
    has built up the natural defense mechanism to fight the yearly onslaught of the
    flu. If I do get the flu, then I will take some medicine and get rid of the flu
    or, then and only then will I go get a shot. I think if people constantly get vaccinated, they
    will never give their bodies the change to do what it is naturally supposed to
    do, and that is fight germs from the inside out! I think the human body will
    build immunities for several strands of the flu virus even though there are
    millions out there. Just like doctors
    create a new shot every year for a new strand of flu virus every year, so will
    your body. Just my opinion though. However, some vaccinations are good. Don’t misunderstand;
    I only feel this away about the flu shot. I have got my children vaccinated twice
    and that is it. They will get no more, unless they really it. The flu shot, gives you the flu. After the age
    of 2, I don’t think the flu shot is needed anymore, unless you actually have
    the flu. Just my thoughts. Now, if case of service members who travel from
    country to country, frequently, this is a whole different story. I would
    suggest getting the flu shot every single year. These service members have to
    be able to leave the country at a moment’s notice so they need to fit and
    healthy. Plus, who knows, the flu shot given here could protect them from other
    things in another country. You just never know. I don’t agree with pregnant
    women getting the flu shot. Pregnant woman have too many other thing going on
    with their bodies to be adding the flu in the mix too.

  • I am a huge believer in the flu shot. It keeps soldiers healthy and ready to come to work. i personally favor the shot over the mist.