It's no fun getting stuck with a needle, but health officials say it's better than getting the flu.
The time of year has come to start thinking about flu season -- and getting immunized against the flu strains experts think will be circulating once flu season kicks into swing.
"Now's the time to get a flu shot so you're protected all season long," said Dr. Maxine Hayes, the state's health officer. "Vaccine is the best protection we have against the flu. Getting it now, before people around you start getting sick, will protect you through the flu season, which usually peaks in January but starts earlier."
The vaccine already is available at many pharmacies and doctors' offices, and the 721,000 doses ordered by the state for kids now are available, the state Department of Health said.
The flu vaccine is provided free for children up to age 18, but health care providers may charge for an office visit or an administration fee to give the shot. People who can't afford the fee can ask for it to be waived.
A flu shot also might be covered by health insurance.
Heather Hill, communicable disease program manager for the Benton Franklin Health District, said the district won't offer flu shot clinics this year the way it has in the past, but did order a supply of the vaccine and will offer flu shots by appointment.
"There are so many venues for the public to get the shots in our community that it became more apparent that people were coming to the health district less and less," Hill said.
She encourages people to go ahead and get their shot now, especially if they spend time around infants who can't get vaccinated, or around senior citizens for whom vaccination is less effective.
"We know as we get older -- especially way up in years -- that we can get vaccinated but the body doesn't respond as well," Hill said. "It is imperative that people who work with the elderly get vaccinated to prevent the elderly person from being exposed to you carrying the virus."
She noted that there were two deaths from the flu in Benton and Franklin counties last year.
"We tend to forget that the flu does kill people," Hill said. "It's sad when you see somebody die from something you can get a vaccine for."
To find a flu shot:
* Call the state's Family Health Hotline at 800-322-2588 to find a health care provider or immunization clinic offering vaccinations.
* Go to www.flu.gov and enter your ZIP code in the "Flu Vaccine Finder" box.
* Call the Benton Franklin Health District at 460-4200 to make a vaccination appointment.
* Veterans with identification or a DD214 form can get a free flu shot from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Pasco American Legion hall, 1029 W. Sylvester St., or from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 26 at a drive-up clinic in the parking lot of the Federal Building, 825 Jadwin Ave., Richland.
* Call your family doctor or local pharmacy to ask if the flu shot is being offered.