OHS Helps Protect Employees During Flu Season

By Marie Haughey and Samuel Lopez, staff writers; photos by Richard Frederickson, Staff Photographer
This year, OHS is offering two types of flu vaccines for free.

This year, OHS is offering two types of flu vaccines for free.

Flu season is in full swing, bringing a host of symptoms like congestion, coughs, fever, chills, muscle aches, and fatigue. To help NCI at Frederick employees stay healthy this year, Occupational Health Services (OHS) is offering two types of flu vaccines for free.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that circulate in all parts of the world. The most effective way to prevent the flu is through vaccination. Safe and effective vaccines are available and have been used for more than 60 years.

WHO recommends that pregnant women, children between the ages of six months and five years, individuals over the age of 65, those with chronic medical conditions, and healthcare workers receive the flu shot annually.

“The flu shot especially saves lives in high-risk adults, such as those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” said Sarah Hooper, manager of OHS.

Luckily for NCI at Frederick staff, OHS makes getting the flu shot easy. The two vaccines, Fluarix Quadrivalent and Fluzone High-Dose, are available to employees with NIH badges working at the NCI at Frederick campus and the Advanced Technology Research Facility. OHS can also travel to the Vaccine Clinical Materials Program, the Industry Lane facility, and the American Type Culture Collection facility to administer vaccines.

Fluarix Quadrivalent doesn’t contain eggs or latex, and it’s cell-mediated instead of being made with thimerosal, making it safe for those with allergies—particularly food allergies—and pregnant women. It also comes in a single-dose syringe, which makes administering the shot easier and less painful.

Fluzone High-Dose is a trivalent vaccine for patients over 65 and, according to manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur, is the first FDA-approved vaccine for that demographic. Like Fluarix Quadrivalent, it comes in a single-dose syringe for easy administration. It is made with eggs, but OHS follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for administering the vaccine, which makes it possible for those with food allergies to be vaccinated.

“OHS has vaccinated over 1,000 employees, and we have not received any complaints about site redness, pain, or side effects,” said Hooper when asked about the two vaccines.

As of November 18, the most common flu strains circulating in the United States are H3N2 (“Hong Kong flu”), B/Yamagata Y3, and H1N1 (swine flu), according to laboratory statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fluarix Quadrivalent contains three strains that match the ones reported, while Fluzone High-Dose contains strains matching H3N2 and H1N1 as well as a B/Victoria strain at a high dosage that is believed to induce broad resistance against most B strains, including B/Yamagata Y3.

These matches do not guarantee that vaccinated employees will not catch the flu, but OHS believes the protection they provide is better than not getting vaccinated at all. To that end, vaccinations will be available to all NCI at Frederick employees for as long as supplies last.