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Free flu clinic will not be held this year

There will not be a free flu clinic held at the Corn Palace this year, officials say. Instead, the focus statewide is on meningococcal and Tdap vaccines, according to Barb Buhler, public information officer with the South Dakota Department of Health.

Kids and adults take part in the free flu vaccination clinic back in 2014 at the Corn Palace. (Republic file photo)
Kids and adults take part in the free flu vaccination clinic back in 2014 at the Corn Palace. (Republic file photo)

There will not be a free flu clinic held at the Corn Palace this year, officials say.

Instead, the focus statewide is on meningococcal and Tdap vaccines, according to Barb Buhler, public information officer with the South Dakota Department of Health.

Throughout South Dakota, including one in Mitchell, there are about 30 point of dispensing (POD) sites. These sites serve as a way to rapidly dispense medications, vaccines or other medical supplies to the state's population.

For the past few years, the POD sites have administered flu vaccinations, Buhler said, and this year the focus is on meningococcal and Tdap vaccines

The vaccine, which will protect against four of the strains of meningococcus, is recommended for children 11-18. The meningococcus germ, which is spread by direct close contact with nose or throat discharges, can cause severe bacterial infection of the bloodstream and the thin lining covering the brain and spinal cord. According to the state health department, it is a relatively rare disease.

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Mitchell held a free meningococcal/Tdap POD clinic on Aug. 11, Buhler said, which administered 130 doses. The clinic was held for 11-18 year olds at the Mitchell Middle School.

Last year, Dakota Wesleyan University student Beau Keeter, 19, was found dead in his campus dormitory. Days later, officials announced Keeter tested positive for bacterial meningitis.

Even though there will not be any flu clinics offered at the POD sites in South Dakota, Buhler said vaccinations are still recommended and can be provided at family health care facilities.

"The flu is a serious illness, particularly for the elderly, people with chronic underlying illnesses, such as cancer, emphysema or diabetes, those with weak immune systems and young children," Buhler said.

The Department of Health provides free vaccines to children under 18 who are eligible for the federal Vaccines for Children Program, which includes children on Medicaid, without insurance, Native Americans or underinsured.

The flu vaccination is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months, according to Buhler.

The Department of Health reported last year's influenza season to be moderate, with 786 confirmed cases of influenza to the DOH, compared to 1,703 cases in the 2014-15 season and 707 in 2013-14.

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