Time to get a flu shot

Remember a few years ago when hundreds of South Carolinians stood in line for hours at public health centers to get a flu shot? That shouldn't be a problem this year.

In fact, the biggest problem may be persuading people to get their flu shots.

South Carolina's health department has ordered a record 290,530 flu shots for the upcoming flu season, about 15,000 more doses than last year. Last year, however, about 45,000 of the state's vaccines went unused because of delayed or damaged shipments and lower-than-expected turnouts at private and public health clinics.

The scene was quite different in 2004, when predictions of an unusually nasty flu season coincided with a vaccine shortage that occurred when a British firm that had contracted to supply half of America's vaccine lost its license. Fortunately, the season turned out to be no worse than usual and the feared epidemic did not materialize.

But there is no foolproof way to predict the severity of any flu season, and the best way to be prepared is to get a flu shot. That is especially true for those who happen to fall into one of the higher risk categories: Young children; people over 65; people with chronic illnesses; pregnant women; nursing home residents and children and adolescents taking aspirin.

Unfortunately, many people don't bother to get flu shots either because they fear a reaction to the shot or because they simply don't want to take the time. Neither excuse is valid.

The shot consists only of dead flu germs that prime the body's defenses without causing any flu symptoms. And the shots are available at so many locations, getting vaccinated shouldn't be a bother.

We urge people to get a flu shot. If this is a bad flu season, you'll be glad you did.