BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Hospital Bremerton’s (NHB) annual influenza vaccination clinic administered 3,826 flu shots to uniformed service members, eligible beneficiaries and DoD Civilians, Nov. 1 through Nov. 6, 2018.
The clinic offered extended hours and was open on the weekend to accommodate those with work and school conflicts during normal business hours.
According to Lt. Rohan Jairam, NHB Environmental Health Officer and Head, Preventive Medicine Department, more people received their flu shot this year – up 622 from 3,204 – than in 2017.
“Having an extra 600 people come by to get vaccinated meant that our team's hard work in preparing for this clinic saw results,” said Jairam, adding that feedback received during the clinic was positive with numerous comments on how well trained the hospital corpsmen administering the flu vaccines were, as well as the relatively short wait time to get a shot.
Jairam noted there were several contributing factors to why there was an increase in vaccinations this year. There was a message sent to all Naval Base Kitsap (NBK) commands inviting all active duty members to the clinic in an effort to meet the Chief of Naval Operations' goal of at least 90 percent of active duty personnel vaccinated before December 15, 2018. Additionally, all those eligible were notified by overlapping marketing efforts that included flyers/posters placed on base, post cards, newspaper advertisement, automated telephone messages, informed ombudsmen, as well as using NHB’s official Facebook page and command website.
“NBK and installation commands were very supportive in sending their staff over to get their flu shots. It is a win-win situation for all parties. Their readiness numbers improve, and the hospital gets to provide a service that we have been preparing for months to provide. We also used this as an opportunity to utilize our auxiliary shot support team, which is trained to respond to a real-life pandemic influenza vaccination need,” Jairam said.
“The first hour of every day was the most hectic and then it would become a slower, steady pace,” commented Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Christopher Barnes, part of the auxiliary shot support team.
Along with affording a training environment for the auxiliary shot support team, this year’s clinic also offered valuable lessons learned and reinforced NHB’s commitment to the Puget Sound Military Health System as an enhanced Multi-Service Market (eMSM) with all service branches involved.
“We utilized a system developed at Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC) this year to check patients in using an ID card scanner and computer automation for medical record(s) entry. For active duty and reserve personnel, we used a service-specific medical readiness systems. A clinical systems trainer from MAMC took the time to introduce the mass vaccination documentation system, which saved us a tremendous amount of time and effort to document shots. As we develop the mass vaccination module in the military's new electronic health record MHS GENESIS, hopefully MAMC's system is used as a standard,” explained Jairam.
Although the clinic has ended, the vaccine is still available at NHB’s Immunization Clinic on the second floor of the Family Care Center, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Vaccinations may also be received from Family Medicine Home Port teams, and at Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Bangor, BHC Everett, and BHC Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
“For those who still need a flu shot, there is plenty to go around. It is available at NHB and all branch health clinics. There is still time to protect yourself, your coworkers, and your family from seasonal influenza,” stressed Jairam.
Annual seasonal influenza vaccinations are required for all active duty military personnel, selected Reserves and healthcare workers. Navy Medicine’s seasonal influenza vaccine immunization program is designed to protect Sailors and Marines, mission-essential healthcare personnel, and eligible beneficiaries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices states that an annual influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone over six months of age who do not have adverse reactions. Children younger than six months are considered not old enough to receive a flu shot. A vaccination should occur before onset of influenza activity in the community. Health care providers should offer vaccination soon after vaccine becomes available and should be offered as long as influenza viruses are circulating.
Immunization is the primary method of reducing seasonal influenza illness and helps to lessen any associated complications by enhancing force immunity. The seasonal influenza vaccine helps protect vaccinated individuals, as well as protects entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of the disease.
NHB Preventive Medicine team also advocates other multiple steps that can be done daily to mitigate the potential spread of the flu such as always practicing good hygiene and managing workforce exposure – social distancing, tele-working, sick leave, etc. - as effective methods to reduce the risk of spreading influenza.
The CDC cites that influenza is thought to spread mainly from people touching something with influenza viruses on it and then touching their mouths or noses.
One of the challenging aspects of flu is that someone who becomes infected can infect others one day before they have symptoms and up to five days after becoming sick.
Influenza usually causes mild to severe illness, and uncommonly can lead to death. Symptoms of influenza include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, chills, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea also can occur but are more common in children than adults.
Traditionally, seasonal flu impacts the elderly and the young.
More information may be obtained at the Flu Hotline, (360) 315-4469.
What can people do to protect themselves against the flu virus?
Naval Hospital Bremerton follows CDC recommendations to:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick, when you are sick, and keep your distance from others to protect them from also getting sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his/her eyes, nose or mouth.
General information of seasonal influenza can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
For more news from Naval Hospital Bremerton, visit www.navy.mil/local/nhb/.