While the 2014-15 influenza vaccine may not be as effective in preventing the flu as hoped, local health care providers and their patients should continue vaccination efforts, health officials said.

Here’s why: Vaccination offers some protection from the flu and may reduce chances for severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said. Vaccination will offer protection against circulating influenza strains that are susceptible to the vaccine.

While the number of documented flu cases has remained relatively low so far this season, a number of flu-like illnesses also are being reported. Influenza is a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. It is especially dangerous for those at high risk, including the very young, the elderly and those with other chronic health conditions and compromised immune systems.

The CDC estimates that 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year with the flu and that the numbers of deaths because of the flu have ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 annually, depending on the severity of the season.

Dr. Bernard Eichold, health officer for the Mobile County Health Department, advises people to take the following precautions to prevent the spread of colds and flu this season:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. No tissue? Cough and sneeze into your upper arm or sleeve.

• Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

• If you are sick, stay home.

The Mobile County Health Department is offering the 2014-2015 seasonal flu vaccine to those age 6 months and older without an appointment Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Health Department’s Immunization Clinic, 251 N. Bayou St. The shots also are available by appointment at MCHD’s outlying Family Health centers. Appointments can be made by calling 251-690-8889. The shots are $15 each, payable in the exact amount by cash or credit card, or by using Medicaid or Medicare Part B, or private insurance that covers the cost.