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Air Guard medics stick out the busy flu season

Master. Sgt. Matthew Morris, 139th Medical Group, administers an immunization to an Airman at the 139th Airlift Wing, St. Joseph, Mo., Dec. 3, 2011. Hundreds of Airmen have received the flu shot during the 2011-2012 flu season so far. (MIssouri Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Stuart)

Master. Sgt. Matthew Morris, 139th Medical Group, administers an immunization to an Airman at the 139th Airlift Wing, St. Joseph, Mo., Dec. 3, 2011. Hundreds of Airmen have received the flu shot during the 2011-2012 flu season so far. (MIssouri Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Stuart)

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The 139th Airlift Wing's medical Airmen said they have immunized a large percentage of Guardmembers for the flu, just one month through the 2011-2012 flu season.

Hundreds of Guardmembers were needled by immunization staff in preparation for the nation's peak flu season, which typically runs November to April here. Getting the stragglers vaccinated is an enduring challenge.

"It's our busy time of the year," said Maj. Jenny Miller, who is in charge of immunizations.

Miller said the 139th Medical Group worked recently to make the annual jab all-the-easier.

"What I love about it is they really let us take the program and change it to where we can do things like the mobile flu line, where we go around to the work areas," said Miller.

That's helped get more Airmen ready for the flu, earlier, she said.

The immunization office manages a long list of shots they inject to prevent some nasty viruses that have an effect on Airmen readiness, including the Anthrax and Small Pox vaccines for those deploying.

"Immunizations are an important part of your medical readiness," said Miller.

The office ensures commanders know who is due for vaccines as well as procures, stores and administers vaccines, maintains each Airman's flu record and trains medical staff to administer shots.

Although Airmen usually experience many shots before they arrive at her door, Miller and her staff still give special assistance to those who are afraid of needles - believe it, or not, some with tattoos.

Fortunately for them, Miller revealed that the old military rumors of a "square needle" or "giant needle" are imaginary.

Miller laughed.

"We order the smallest needles that we can," she said, adding there is always a bright side to rolling up your sleeve here: the lollipop.

"You get a free sucker with every shot," she said.