Thousands of Tennesseans are arming themselves with one of the weapons the state health department is using in this year’s battle against influenza: free flu shots.
In the Southeast Tennessee region alone, 6,308 vaccinations have been given so far, according to Tennessee Health Department spokeswoman Shelley Walker.
That number increases every day, she noted, since all nine health departments in the region – which includes Bledsoe, Bradley, Franklin, Grundy, McMinn, Marion, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie Counties – still have vaccine available.
There are no residency requirements, she said; “individuals may go to the county health department that is most convenient for them.”
That means residents of Hamilton County, where employees said the local health department opted not to provide free flu shots, could go to a health department in a neighboring county where the vaccine is available free of charge, according to Ms. Walker.
Plans for providing flu vaccines vary from county to county, with some allowing walk-ins while others prefer that patients make appointments. “We advise people who want to get a flu vaccine to call their county health department first to check availability and find out whether an appointment is needed,” she noted.
The department is moving flu vaccine among counties as needed, she explained, “so we can’t really give a figure for the maximum number of individuals in Bradley or any other county that could be vaccinated before our supply is depleted . . . Please note, TDH is far from the only provider of flu vaccine in that or any other county; flu vaccine is widely available from a variety of health care providers including primary care providers, pharmacies and other clinics.”
It is unclear how long the free vaccine will continue to be available, she said.
“(T)he Tennessee Department of Health runs health department clinics in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties...TDH decided to begin offering flu vaccine at no cost to patients at all of our clinics because we had an abundant supply,” she said, “and wanted to see as many Tennesseans vaccinated against the flu as possible. Our clinics will continue providing flu vaccinations at no cost to patients until supplies are exhausted.”