VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Although flu season typically peaks in February, those of us with kids know we're lucky to get through October without one of them bringing more than just homework home from school. Then it's only a matter of time before that bug jumps from one member of the family to the next. But TRICARE can help you to swat that bug into the gutter to keep your family from being bowled over.
A flu shot is a covered preventive services benefit for all TRICARE Prime, Standard and Extra beneficiaries. Flu vaccination is recommended in October or November, but may still be beneficial if received as late as December, as the season typically runs from October through May.
There are two TRICARE-covered options available:
1. The flu shot, which is an inactivated vaccine administered by needle. It is recommended for people age 6 months or older, to include people with chronic medical conditions.
2. The nasal-spray flu vaccine, made with live, weakened flu viruses that do not cause the flu. This is recommended for people age 2-49 years that are not pregnant.
Does the flu shot cause the flu?
No. "A coincidental virus or cold may creep up on you post-vaccination, but the virus that causes influenza will not come from receiving a flu shot," said Dr. Len Tamsky, vice president of Health Care Services and senior medical director for TriWest Healthcare Alliance.
Who should get vaccinated?
As a general rule of thumb, anyone who wants to spare themselves or their family from the flu should get vaccinated. People at high risk for flu-related complications, include but are not limited to:
· Children age 6 months to 5 years
· Women who will be pregnant during the flu season
· People of any age with certain chronic diseases
· People 50 years of age and older
· People living in a nursing home
· Health care workers.
Regardless of your age or health, be sure to consult your primary care manager (PCM) about getting the vaccination, especially if you:
· Are ill
· Are allergic to eggs
· Have ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine
· Have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
Where to go
If you are enrolled at a military treatment facility, contact your MTF to find out if and when flu shots are offered and then obtain the vaccination from your PCM. If you get a flu shot from a TRICARE network provider, you do not need a referral or authorization from your PCM.
Flu shots received from a non-network provider--one who does not accept TRICARE--are subject to point-of-service charges for TRICARE Prime beneficiaries. Vaccines provided at civilian pharmacies and drugstores are not covered by TRICARE.
For more information about TRICARE coverage for flu vaccinations, visit www.TRICARE.mil
, or the Healthy Living Portal at www.triwest.com
Don't let the flu bug strike your family. A little prevention can go a long way.