As the number of people infected with the flu continues to increase, the state took action Wednesday to protect more people.
Now, anyone can go to any county health department and get a free flu vaccine.
The Tennessee Department of Health did the same thing last year as well. Officials say they have plenty of supply, so it does more good in peoples' systems rather than on a shelf.
However, this year it seems some people are not convinced the vaccine does more good than harm.
You might think a man like Brandan Cooper, who works in Nashville as a street food vendor, would be first in line for a flu vaccine. But like a lot of people, he chooses to pass.
"Well, the reason I don't get the flu shot is because I heard they put a lot of stuff in it. You know, you get the flu when you take the shot. So, I was like, 'Well, I'll just stay away.' I just drink a lot of orange juice," he said.
That, for Dr. Kelly Moore at the state health department, yet again signals a recurring problem in perception for the vaccine.
"It makes my job easier, because I don't have to remember a new answer. It's always the same and it's a simple answer - the flu vaccine can't cause the flu, and we just have to keep reminding people of that because they see a lot of strange things on the internet," Moore said.
The recent fungal meningitis outbreak could be posing perception problems. Some seem to worry about the flu vaccine's safety, given the deadly outbreak sparked by injectable steroids.
But, according to the state, the two can't compare.
"The issues with flu vaccine manufacturers are totally different than those involving the fungal meningitis situation, and that could not happen with the flu vaccine," Moore said.
Last flu season, 48 percent of Tennesseans received the flu vaccine, which put the state toward the top of the list nationally.
This doctor hopes for more this year, but it won't include Cooper, who is willing to gamble against the virus again.
"No, I'm not going to get it. I'm just going to keep drinking my orange juice. That's better than the flu shot. That's how I feel," he said.
To receive a free vaccine, contact your local county health department. In some cases, you might have to make an appointment.
The vaccine can take about a week or two to take full effect.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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