OLYMPIA — Get vaccinated now: That’s the message from Washington health officials as we enter into flu season.

“It’s essential to take the flu seriously and just as essential to get a flu vaccine every year,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer. “Flu vaccine is now available statewide at most pharmacies and health care provider offices. Everyone 6 months old and older, including kids, teens, pregnant women and healthy young adults, should get vaccinated,” Lofy said last week in a press release from the Washington Department of Health.

The most recent update by DOH on flu activity shows the level in low in Washington, but that can change fast.

Flu is a highly contagious disease that can cause severe, even deadly illness. Young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and those with certain chronic health conditions are at high risk from complications of flu. Health workers and caregivers of babies and older adults should get vaccinated to protect themselves and those they care for. However, anyone can get flu, including healthy young people.

“Every year flu kills many Washingtonians. We need to do better to protect each other. Get your family vaccinated now before flu strikes,” Dr. Lofy added.

During the last flu season, 241 people in Washington died from the flu and its complications — many more were severely sickened and hospitalized. Most flu-related deaths were among older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions. However every year there are deaths even in young, healthy people. This underscores the need for all people to get vaccinated, which forms a “cocoon” around those who are too young to receive a vaccine, and those who can’t be vaccinated because of certain medical conditions.

Washington state provides all recommended vaccines — including flu vaccine — at no cost for kids through age 18. These vaccinations are available at health care providers across the state. Providers may charge an office visit or administration fee, however a family who can’t afford the fee can request the fee be waived.

For help finding a health care provider or flu vaccine location, or to learn more about flu, visit KnockOutFlu.org. Each week the Department of Health produces an Influenza Update — https://tinyurl.com/WA-Flu-Update — with information on flu activity, deaths, hospitalizations, and other timely data.

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