(Photo by Samantha Celera)

(Photo by Samantha Celera)

Flu shots in Alaska public health clinics will be free through March.

While the vaccine itself is free to some Alaskans, they are still required to pay a $28 administrative fee.  That fee will now be waived.

Spokesman Greg Wilkinson says the state Division of Public Health hopes it will encourage more people to get immunized. He outlines who is eligible:

“State supplied flu vaccine is available to children under the age of 3 and anyone who’s 3 and over that doesn’t have health insurance, who’s health insurance doesn’t cover vaccines, who has insurance but they haven’t met their deductible for vaccination coverage, if they don’t know if their health insurance covers vaccinations or not, or if they just have nowhere else to go in the community to receive the vaccine, they can come to a public health center,” Wilkinson says.

Both shots and the nasal spray vaccine are available at any of the state’s 22 clinics, including Juneau, and at other health centers that receive state grants.

At the end of December, 242 cases of the flu cases had been reported statewide.  While Wilkinson says that’s similar to years’ past, flu season didn’t really start in Alaska until December.

He says two adults have died from the flu.

Until Dec. 29th, Alaska health care providers were required to only report children’s deaths to the state from the flu.  Now they must report adult flu deaths to state public health. Before the regulations changed, Wilkinson says adult flu statistics were  lumped in with pneumonia.

“So if you looked at death statistics on our website you would only see people who have died from what they call PNI, or pneumonia and influenza. What this will do now, is this requires health providers to report any adult who dies from influenza, and whether that’s they’ve had a lab confirmed case of influences, a rapid test confirmed case or influenza or the clinical diagnosis is influenza,” Wilkinson says.

The current strain is H1N1, also called swine flu.  Wilkinson says so far, no children have died in Alaska from the flu.

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