Four-year-old Sarahi Larios cried in her mom’s lap when she received the flu vaccine Wednesday night in Tacoma.
The nasal spray for children startled the young girl.
Alma Alvarado brought Sarahi and her other daughter, Alejandra Larios, 17, to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department for free flu vaccines to protect all of them during a severe flu season.
“I’m very worried,” said Alvarado, 34, of Tacoma. “I heard about it on the news.”
They were among 142 people vaccinated Wednesday at the second and last free flu vaccine clinic for children and uninsured adults this season put on by the Health Department.
Waiting for her shot in the arm, Denise Durham said she worries about contracting the flu or something worse.
“This is so bad,” said Durham, 54, of Tacoma. “It’s killing people.”
This year’s flu season is the worst since the pandemic in 2009 of the so-called swine flu, said public health nurse Denise Stinson.
This outbreak hit early and is more severe than usual, said Stinson, the department’s influenza surveillance coordinator.
“We think it’s still valuable to get your flu vaccine,” she said. “Influenza will continue to circulate for probably several more weeks.”
The flu outbreak, plus a variety of other infectious diseases, have filled Pierce County hospitals to capacity, officials say.
Two flu-related deaths have been reported during this flu season in Pierce County. One involved a boy younger than 12; the other was a woman in her 70s, Stinson said.
This year’s flu strain is particularly causing more serious illness in people older than 65, she said.
The clinics provide a safety net for those without insurance, Stinson said. Without insurance, a flu shot costs from $25 to $35 from local providers.
About 200 people turned out Jan. 16 for the department’s first clinic. Pierce County Medical Reserve Corps volunteers administered the vaccines at both clinics.
The Health Department, at 3629 S. D St., also has coordinated the distribution of 63,000 doses of flu vaccine through the state’s Vaccine for Children Program. As of early this month, about 43,000 of those doses had been administered.
Through a partnership with vaccine maker Sanofi Pasteur, the Health Department is making free vaccines available through local pharmacies for low-income adults.
The flu is a respiratory illness with symptoms including a fever above 100 degrees, a cough, body aches and a sore throat.
Phai Phan, 23, was first in line with her mother and brother to get vaccinated at the 90-minute clinic.
Phan said she and her mother, Thanh-Qui Nguyen, 49, both became sick with the flu last year, even though they were vaccinated.
“Every winter when the weather changes, I get sick very easily,” said Phan, of Tacoma. “It’s better to get some protection.”
For more information about the flu and vaccines, go to tpchd.org/flu.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647