WEST MICHIGAN -- While it may seem too early to think about flu season, local health department officials say early October is one of the best times to get a flu shot.
"There's a big advantage to getting your shot now before our flu activity is increased," said Mary Wisinski, immunization program supervisor with the Kent County Health Department.
“Before people start getting sick, before the big weather change we’re going to have some nice change, make sure you go out and get no only yourself, but your kids, vaccinated as well," Wisinski said.
In Calhoun County, you don't even have to leave your car to get the shot.
"Doing a drive-thru you can keep all of the people in the vehicle, vaccinate and you decrease the amount of exposure to some potentially deadly diseases," said Michelle Thorne, personnel health services manager with the Calhoun County Health Department.
The flu shot drive-thru is in its second year and available in the parking lot of Kellogg Community College until 6 p.m. Friday, then it is closed for the season.
As for the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccines, health professionals said it's too early to tell without many cases yet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have a preference on whether the nasal spray flu vaccine or the flu shot is more effective.
In every flu shot, Wisinski explained you are exposed to either three of four strains of the influenza virus; the nasal spray carries four strains. Data shows that one of the four strains in the 2015-2014 flu vaccines was about 15 percent effective, which led to the vaccinations being less effective than usual.
However, Wisinki said that's better than no protection.
"That was one of those times where oh darn, it wasn’t as effective," said Wisinki. "However, the other three strains worked, and even if it’s only 20 percent effective, that is 20 percent versus zero if you don’t get your flu shot.”
In Muskegon, residents are invited to several free Say Boo to the Flu events to get flu shots at no cost, if you are under-insured or uninsured:
- Saturday Oct. 17: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. at County of Muskegon South Campus, 165 E. Apple Ave. at the Wheels of Mercy bus
- Monday and Tuesday Oct. 19 - 20: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Muskegon Community College, Gerber Lounge
- Saturday Oct. 24: 7 a.m . - 2 p.m. at Jefferson and Western Ave., across the street from the Muskegon Farmers Market, at the Wheels of Mercy Van
Several organizations are putting on these events, including: 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon County; FamilyWize; Mercy Health Muskegon; The Health Project; Muskegon Community College; and local Walgreens pharmacies. Residents are asked to bring their insurance cards if they are insured.