(Host) Twelve-thousand people at highest risk for the flu will be able to receive a flu shot on Thursday. The Visiting Nurses Association and Vermont’s Health Department will be operating one-day clinics at 17 locations across the state.
While there is some concern about long lines, VPR’s Nina Keck says health officials are encouraging those who qualify to get the shot.
(Keck) Those in nursing homes or those too ill to leave their homes have for the most part already been vaccinated. Those being encouraged to get flu shots tomorrow are adults with one or more chronic illnesses, the frail elderly and pregnant women. Anne Ruby is Infection Control Practitioner at Rutland Regional Medical Center. She says running this sort of clinic can be a challenge for health care staff.
(Ruby) “You have to be cognizant of can they stand there for a certain period of time? Do they need a walker? So I think there are going to be some opportunities where people are going to have to be really on their toes to manage the crowd so to speak. Because typically even the clinics in the past years when the clinic starts at nine people are there at 7:30.”
(Keck) State health officials are asking people to use common sense. They say anyone who is able to go to tomorrow’s clinic should. But they say additional doses of the vaccine will be available in four to six weeks for anyone who can’t attend one of tomorrow’s clinics. Vermont Health Commissioner, Dr. Paul Jarris, says that while the shortage of vaccine has been a challenge, there is some good news.
(Jarris) “Never before has there been such a concerted effort to make sure that the highest risk individuals get the vaccine. In the past it’s really been whoever wants it gets it. So we’re hoping that more of the high-risk people are going to get it this year.”
(Keck) Jarris says the public education that’s been going on to show people how to avoid spreading the flu may have a positive impact as well. The flu kills about 36,000 Americans every year, which Commissioner Jarris says breaks down to about 720 Vermonters and he says thousands are hospitalized.
(Jarris) “That’s important for the health of those individuals and for the economy and the cost that illness has for us. So it really is time that we take this seriously and make sure there’s a system in place and we really think what priority we want to put on basic public health measures like immunizations.”
(Keck) With all the attention focused on the flu this year, Jarris says now might be the right time for public health officials to do that.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.
Health Department’s list of flu clinic locations