With flu season approaching, the Alameda County Public Health Department has its sights set on children, who they say are especially prone to spread the potentially deadly virus. To help combat the spread of the flu, in October, the Public Health Department will launch their Shoo the Flu campaign and offer free vaccinations to children in 110 public schools throughout Oakland.
In Alameda County alone, 111,000 to 189,000 people contract the flu annually, which costs the County an estimated $123 to $240 million.
“If you can increase the vaccinations in young children you are protecting the entire community, including the elderly,” said Dr. Erica Pan, the director of communicable disease control and prevention in the Alameda County Public Health Department. “We are working on vaccinating 5 to 11-year-olds with Shoo the Flu because young children are what we sometimes call ‘super spreaders.’ They are spreading germs to each other, to their families, and to their caregivers.”
To ease the pain and hassle of traditional flu shots, the majority of the vaccinations will be administered through a nasal mist, which studies have shown can be a more effective way of protecting young children from the flu. For children with asthma or other respiratory issues, injection-style vaccinations will also be available. According to Dr. Pan, the Shoo The Flu campaign is prepared to vaccinate 30,000 students, and considers 15,000 vaccinations to be a successful campaign.
And while many people think that the flu vaccine causes the flu, Dr. Pan says there is no need to worry. “It’s absolutely not true,” she said. “You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine.”
To measure the success of the campaign, the Alameda County Public Health Department is partnering with the UC Berkeley School of Public Health to contribute to their Bay Area Flu Study. In the coming years, the school’s flu surveillance data will help the Health Department find out how best to prevent the spread of the virus.