Arm yourself with a flu shot

With the focus on fighting H1N1 flu this year, it's now more important than ever to get a flu shot. But where can Tricare patients go, and when?

Only months ago, the World Health Organization declared the H1N1 flu a worldwide outbreak. This year, beneficiaries will need to get their seasonal flu shot, as well as another vaccination for the H1N1 flu.

The seasonal flu vaccine is a Tricare-covered benefit and has up to a 90 percent success rate in a healthy population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On top of that, it's available as a shot or nasal spray. Patients may benefit the most by getting vaccinated in October or November. However, getting it as late as December can still help bolster the immune system.

To get either the seasonal flu shot or H1N1 vaccine, Tricare Prime patients enrolled at a military installation clinic should call the facility to find out when the vaccines are available. As long as Tricare Prime patients receive the seasonal flu shot from a Tricare network provider, the vaccine is free.

The shot is also free for those enrolled in Tricare Standard, Extra, or Tricare Prime Remote, as long as they use any Tricare-authorized provider.

Keep in mind that while going to a local grocery store or pharmacy for the flu shot may be convenient, these public clinics do not use Tricare providers and therefore Tricare will not reimburse beneficiaries for the cost.

If beneficiaries have any concerns about getting a seasonal flu shot or H1N1 vaccine, they should talk to their doctor. Typically, anyone 6 months and older can be vaccinated. The CDC recommends the seasonal flu vaccine for those at high risk, including:

>> People 50 years and older

>> Children 6 months to 18 years old

>> People living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

>> People with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease

>> People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu

>> Pregnant women

For more information about the seasonal flu vaccination, West Region Tricare beneficiaries can talk to their doctor or visit the TriWest Healthy Living Portal at www.triwest.com/âãhealthyliving.

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