FORT WORTH — Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks says he’s eliminated the flu from his life, and he got his annual shot Friday to make sure he keeps the illness at bay this year.Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Tarrant County Public Health Director Lou Brewer were also vaccinated as the cameras rolled at the kickoff of a campaign with Walgreens to encourage people to get their 2013 flu shots.Raj Chhadua, district pharmacy supervisor for Walgreens, announced that the company will provide free flu shots to anyone who lacks medical insurance or the ability to pay.“We don’t turn away anyone,” Chhadua said.Walgreens provided more than $10 million in free shots nationwide last year, including 250,000 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, he said.“Flu is a preventable illness. By receiving a flu shot, you can help prevent flu-related illness, missed school and missed work,” Brooks said during the event at Tarrant County Public Health. “Flu shots are critical in keeping our own families healthy and in making sure we don’t pass that illness on to anybody else,” he said.The illness should never be taken lightly, Price said. “The issue with flu is that you never know if it’s going to be a difficult season with a harsh virus or whether it’s going to be a mild season. So why gamble? Get your flu shot,” she said.Brewer urged people to act early.“Flu season is tricky. We don’t know what it is going to be like until we get there. Sometimes it’s early. Sometimes it’s late. Sometimes it’s mild. Sometimes it’s not. The best thing to do is get your flu vaccine early,” she said, noting that the vaccines are now available at six county health clinics.Beyond a vaccine, Brewer recommended preventive steps such as washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you have the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading it to others.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a yearly flu vaccine for everyone who’s at least 6 months old. Flu activity commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal activity can begin as early as October and continue as late as May, according to the CDC. Last year, the season peaked in December.Manufacturers have projected that they will produce 135 million to 139 million doses of flu vaccine for use in the U.S. this year, according to the CDC.
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981 Twitter: @stevecamp