CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo- The KFOR Regional Command – East TF Medical team assigned to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo kicked off the flu vaccine campaign from Oct. 29-Nov. 1.
The goal of Department of Defense Influenza Vaccination Program is to protect all active duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel, mission-essential civilian personnel, and healthcare personnel from influenza and related complications. Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Flu seasons are unpredictable and have the potential to affect DoD readiness and mission success. Each year in the United States, seasonal influenza kills more than 36,000 people and hospitalizes 200,000 more.
For the 2019 flu season, TF MED offered injectable flu shots to Soldiers, federal civilians, and any contractors that handle food or other items consumed by service members stationed at any of the camps in the Balkans. Soldiers did not receive, the live attenuated influenza vaccine, known as FluMist, In accordance with effectiveness recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It can be hard to convince people to come in for their shot,” said Cpt. Anthony Apa, a pharmacist assigned to TF MED and the organizer of the 2019 flu campaign. “People are concerned that it will make them sick.”
According to the CDC, the risks of getting vaccinated are significantly lower than the benefits in most cases. Also vaccination has been shown to make the flu milder for individuals who do get sick, which may reduce the risk of more serious flu outcomes such as hospitalizations.
“The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year,” said Staff Sgt. Alex McKenzie, a medic assigned to TF MED. He also encourages people to do the following to prevent the spread of the flu:
• Clean your hands often with soap and warm water or alcohol-based hand cleaners.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough then put used tissue in the wastebasket. If a tissue is not available, then sneeze or cough into the inside of your elbow, not your hand.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick and keep your distance or stay home if you are sick.
“The goal is to immunize with flu shots at least 90 percent of service members and civilian workers by Dec. 15,” Apa said. “We hope to decrease the chances that people are sick during this deployment.” Cpt Apa was able to achieve his goal.