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A shot of 'Minnesota nice'

Seniors turn down flu shots for 'people who need it'

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Are Minnesotans too nice to get flu shots?

That's what some nurses are thinking after vaccination sites around the Twin Cities are being left with extra doses of vaccine, despite the nationwide shortage.

"I've heard many people say, 'I am 65, but my 92-year old mom needs it,'" said Mary Ann Blade, president of the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Agency, which runs flu clinics around the state.

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Last Friday at a clinic at Bloomington City Hall, public-health workers came armed with 800 vaccine doses but gave out only 259. On Tuesday, nurses at a clinic in Prior Lake arrived with 1,000 doses and left with 750.

Frustrated health officials said they might be dealing with an excessive case of "Minnesota nice." Too many Minnesotans at high risk of flu complications think there's someone out there who needs the shot more than they do.

Kris Ehresmann, head of the vaccine program at the Minnesota Health Department, said there are about 1.6 million high-risk people in Minnesota who should be vaccinated, but many have not gotten shots. The state still has about 925,000 doses available.

"We can't make them get vaccinated," Ehresmann said, "but we want to make sure we've gotten the word out."

The word, she said, is that there is vaccine available for those who want and need it. But soon, she said, health officials will start distributing extra doses to health care workers, who are next on the priority list.

The visiting nurses agency will hold 24 flu clinics this week at schools and churches around the metro area. The agency has 30,000 doses to distribute, Blade said.

But some high-risk people have to be persuaded to get the shots. Karen Stanley, who runs the vaccine program for Bloomington, said her brothers all have health problems that put them into high-risk categories -- but she had to talk them into getting shots.

"They were going to defer it for the older people," Stanley said. "And I've heard that older people want to defer so babies can get it."

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Health officials said they've already provided enough vaccine for all 450 nursing facilities and their 37,000 residents.

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