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Immunization coordinator Tara Fergerson has been working at the Cole County Health Department since August.

An Eldon native, she came from Capital Region Medical Center, where she worked as a labor and delivery nurse.

Her job is to order vaccines to meet the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control.

"When people come in to get their flu shots, we make sure that they are up to date on all their immunizations," Fergerson said. "Over the last few months, the Health Department has been doing flu clinics at all public and private schools in the county as well as state offices. In October, we gave 3,100 flu shots."

As of early November, there had been 18 confirmed cases of the flu in Cole County and 690 across Missouri.

As people are in close contact with each other over the holidays, the spread of the flu will likely speed up, Fergerson said.

"We also go to The Salvation Army's facility on Jefferson Street, where we gave shots for Hepatitis A," she said. "We try to go there every month because it's a transient population and the homeless population is the most at risk for contracting this."

There have been 529 cases of Hepatitis A reported in Missouri, but none have been reported in Cole County.

"We advocate that our services are available to all our residents, and we try to make it easier for people to get vaccinated with the shot clinics," Fergerson said. "That way, people don't have to leave work or find someone to watch the kids. We can go to them, and it's usually free because employers pay for the service. When it's considered an outbreak, like with Hepatitis A, we can give those for free. We also give them a voucher for them to get a second shot for free in six months because it is a two dose series."

Fergerson said they'll slow down over the holidays but pick back up after the first of the year when the people start to see flu cases increase and realize they shouldn't have procrastinated.

"We also have a map to help us track the spread of Hepatitis A," she said. "It started in southeast Missouri and it's working it's way up, so eventually it will get here; but by doing our vaccine clinics, we should have a lesser chance of a bigger outbreak here."

To learn more about vaccination services at the Cole County Health Department, call 573-636-2181.

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