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Change of seasons means time for flu shots

Even if you've never had a flu shot, you might want to consider one this year.

Flu vaccine provides protection against a virus that claims nearly as many American lives every year as car crashes, and there will be ample supplies of vaccine available this fall.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 36,000 people die every year of flu or its complications, and about 114,000 are hospitalized. (About 40,000 die in auto wrecks.) But the influenza virus has become so commonplace that many people do not perceive it as a health threat, said Dr. Mel Kohn, Oregon's state epidemiologist.

If it were some disease that we had never heard of, we'd be pulling out all the stops to fight it, Kohn said Wednesday.

— While more than 90 percent of flu deaths occur among the elderly, there is new evidence that the virus also can cause serious health problems for younger people. The CDC encourages all adults over 50 to get immunized, along with anyone who has chronic health problems such as heart or lung disease, kidney problems, diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, or the virus that causes AIDS.

We would like to see as many people as possible get vaccinated who fit the criteria, said Carleen Lawrence, infection control specialist at Providence Medford Medical Center.

CDC researchers estimate that only about two-thirds of adults over age 65 got a flu shot in 2000 and 2001, and fewer than one in four children with asthma were immunized.

Lawrence said health-care workers and others in close contact with those at high risk also should be immunized. The CDC now recommends that toddlers age 6 to 23 months be immunized because they are at risk of developing severe complications if they come down with the virus.

The flu could be deadly to those little ones, said Anne Daugherty, a public health nurse for Jackson County.

The vaccine will not guarantee that someone will avoid influenza completely, but it does dramatically reduce the risk of contracting the virus and tends to lessen the severity if someone does come down with the bug.

The CDC estimates that 85.5 million doses of vaccine will be produced this year. That's about 9.5 million fewer doses than in 2002, but the total still exceeds the 79 million doses of vaccine that were sold to health-care providers in 2002. Most vaccine should be in providers' hands by Oct. 1.

There's plenty of time to get immunized. Flu cases typically do not appear in Oregon until December, and the vaccine begins to provide some immunity within days.

List of flu-shot clinics

Flu shots will be available at the sites listed below. Check with each site for payment arrangements. Most will charge a fee (around &

36;20) for non-Medicare patients.

Many physicians also provide flu shots for their patients.

This schedule is subject to last-minute changes, and it may not include every site. Many of the sites are listed on the Providence Flu Hotline, 732-6254, or on the Web site at:

Oct. 2: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Costco, 3639 Crater Lake Highway, Medford.

Oct. 3: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tark's Market, 215 E. Wagner St., Talent.

Oct. 7: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Jacksonville Chiropractic Clinic, 580 Blackstone Alley, Jacksonville.

Oct. 8: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Costco.

Oct. 11: Noon to 6 p.m., Tark's Market.

Oct. 15: 9 a.m. to — p.m., First Church of the Nazarene, 1974 E. McAndrews Road, Medford.

Oct. 16: — to 7 p.m., Costco.

Oct. 18: 11 a.m. to — p.m., Cascade Natural Health Clinic, 751 Crater Lake Highway, White City.

Oct. 22: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Costco.

Oct. 25: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Costco.

Oct. 28: — to 2 p.m., Eagle Point Senior Center, 121 Loto St., Eagle Point.

Oct. 30: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., Providence Senior Services, 769 Spring St., Medford.

Oct. 30: 1:15 to — p.m., Rogue River Community Center, 132 Broadway, Rogue River.

Oct. 31:11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 44 N. Second St., Ashland.

Oct. 31: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Costco.

Nov. 3: 10 a.m. to noon, Upper Rogue Community Center, 22465 Highway 62, Shady Cove.

Nov. 3: 1:15 to 3:30 p.m., Medford Senior Center, 510 E. Main St., Medford.

Nov. 3: — to 7 p.m., Costco.

Nov. 5: 9 a.m. to noon, Ascension Lutheran Church, 2617 E. Barnett Road, Medford.

Nov. 6: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Central Point Grange, 436 E. Pine St., Central Point.

Nov. 7: 11 a.m.-noon,St. Marks Episcopal Church, Fifth Street and Oakdale Avenue, Medford.

Nov. 8: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Costco.

Nov. 11: — to 7 p.m., Costco.

Nov. 19: 2 to — p.m., Arbor Place Retirement Center, 3150 Juanipero Way, Medford.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492, or e-mail