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Clinic makes flu shot bearable

Barbara Diamond

A shot heard round the world -- that would be me whining.

I made my annual visit to the Laguna Beach Community Clinic last

week.

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That is where I get my flu shot each year. The shots are free for

seniors, which I am, and gentle with “wannies,” which I also am when

confronted by someone wielding a needle, no matter how beneficial.

I arrived at 8 a.m. and was out by 8:30 a.m. I spent most of the

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half hour staring at the shiny new vinyl floor that has replaced that

tatty old carpet in the waiting room, pretending that I was reading a

magazine and that no one was going to jab me.

There may have been other seniors waiting to get their shots, but

I didn’t see them. It has been reported that fewer seniors are

getting their shots this year. Bad choice.

“The older you get, the more likely you are to end up in the

hospital if you get the flu,” said Debbie Mulligan, nurse

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epidemiologist at South Coast Medical Center.

And you don’t catch it from a shot in the arm or any other part of

your anatomy. The vaccine is attenuated -- that means it’s a dead

virus.

“A flu shot can make your arm sore, but it can’t give you the

flu,” Mulligan said. “You might be mad at the person who gave you the

shot, but the flu came from the person standing next to you at the

grocery store. And if there is vomiting or diarrhea, it’s not flu.”

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Flu shots are recommended for anyone older than 60, anyone with a

fragile immune system or a chronic disease such as diabetes,

bronchitis or asthma, and young children.

“This year, for the first time, the Center for Disease Control is

recommending that normally healthy kids get the vaccine, but I advise

parents to check first with their pediatricians,” Mulligan said.

Some people will use any excuse to avoid a shot. A fear of needles

pretty much tops the list.

The clinic still has vaccine available for seniors, the

chronically ill and high-risk children, while supplies last.

“We got about 500 doses from the county, pretty much the same as

last year,” Waidley said.

Donations are accepted, but not expected.

I began getting the shots because I was fed up with the annual

bouts of flu that hit me after my Christmas visits with my

grandchildren in Northern California. After the last bout put me on

my back for almost 10 days, I vowed to start getting the shots,

despite my terror of needles. I haven’t had the flu since, knock on

wood.

There are numerous strains of flu and the vaccine is reformulated

each year based on the three most virulent detected the previous

year, Mulligan said. The shot takes about 10 days to two weeks to

become effective.

“Protection lasts six to eight months,” Mulligan said. “The flu

season peaks at different times across the country. Last year, it

peaked at the end of January in Orange County.”

“Remember, washing hands is still one of the most effective means

of preventing flu,” she said.

My advice: as soon as you dry your hands, call the clinic at

497-8473 to make an appointment to get a shot, or drop in from 8 a.m.

to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. The clinic is at 362 Third

St. Other sources are listed at www.findaflueshot.com.

* BARBARA DIAMOND is a reporter for the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. She may be reached at 494-4321.


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