More flu vaccinations available |

More flu vaccinations available

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Public Health nurse Valerie Finnigan, left, checks the blood pressure of Ruth Bartley, 77, during a health screening at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center on Monday. Finnigan also provides flu vaccination information at the screening.

More South Shore residents trying to stay healthy can breathe a little sigh of relief – restrictions have been eased on the flu vaccine to an expanded number of seniors and emergency personnel eligible to receive treatment.

Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, family caregivers and seniors over age 50 may line up for the vaccine. The only people able to receive it before Friday were seniors over age 65, infants between 6 and 23 months, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes, health care workers such as doctors and nurses and those with chronic health problems.

Two months after the federal government recommended that scarce flu shots be reserved for people most at risk, health officials began to worry that doses would go to waste.

Influenza kills on average 36,000 people and hospitalizes 200,000 in the United States.

More than half of all elderly or chronically ill adults have not even tried to get flu shots because they figured they would not be able to get one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week. So the CDC opened up the vaccine to more people on Friday.

Barton Memorial Hospital and the El Dorado County Health Department followed suit Monday.

“People who qualified didn’t get it, and it’s not too late,” county Public Health Nurse Valerie Finnigan said Monday.

The county offers $10 flu vaccines at its health offices at 1360 Johnson Ave., accepting MediCal and Medicare coverage and appointments between Monday and Friday until 5 p.m. It will also host a clinic at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center in Jan. 5 from 10 a.m. to noon.

“We’ve been thinking about getting one,” Ruth Bartley, 77, said, while playing cards at the center Monday. She and her 80-year-old husband, Bob, just moved to the area a month ago. They get flu shots every year.

“Seniors are good when they’re sick. They stay home,” said John Collins, who runs the Senior Center. Finnigan has been making the rounds at the center to provide health screenings. With that, she’s spread the word on the availability of the flu vaccine.

Although the flu season doesn’t peak until mid-January, it appears the flu bug has visited several local residents. Christmas marks the start of the season, the California Public Health Department reports.

Of the 56 staffers with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, a dozen people have called in sick with the flu or a cold in the last few months. Police Chief Don Muren said today’s announcement was welcome news.

To alleviate the possible spread of flu, Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic Church has urged its parishioners to refrain from coming to Mass holding hands or taking communion if they believe they have or could get the sickness.

There’s no policy change at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church.

Stateline Medical Center will provide flu shots for $19 on a walk-in basis from Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Pneumonia shots are also available through the county and Barton for $15 and $48, respectively.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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