Voters can stay in line and get a flu shot
By Matt Russell
Along with signs noting poll hours today, voters at the Olmsted County Public Health building are being greeted with another reminder: They can get flu shots after they vote.
For the first time, Olmsted County Public Health is expanding its flu immunization clinic hours on Election Day. Shots were available over the lunch hour and also later than usual, until polls close at 8 p.m. The effort is part of Vote & Vax, a national program to increase flu vaccinations led by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Vote & Vax, which started in 1997, worked with local public health agencies around the country in 2006 to deliver 13,790 influenza vaccinations at 127 polling places. The number of polling places in the program has more than doubled this year, to more than 280.
The point is to make flu shots accessible and easy to get, said Kari Etrheim of Olmsted County Public Health.
It’s an idea that appealed to Christina Jorgensen of Rochester, who was among the first this morning to get a shot after voting.
"It’s convenient," she said.
Olmsted County Public Health will offer vaccinations to anyone who comes in today, whether they voted or not, Etrheim said. She couldn’t predict how many people would take advantage of the offer.
"It’s supposed to be a huge voting year so we could have a lot," she said.
Vote & Vax is being offered in addition to Olmsted County Public Health’s regular walk-in flu vaccination clinics, which run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Cost is $21 unless covered by Medicare.
Flu vaccinations will be offered until they run out, and several hundred doses are still available, Etrheim said. She said some years the county runs out of flu shots by Dec. 1, but other years they last until mid-Februrary.
Flu activity typically peaks around January or February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but getting the flu vaccine soon after it becomes available each year is always a good idea because the protection you get will last through the flu season.
For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.
Vote & Vax http://www.voteandvax.com/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu information http://www.cdc.gov/flu/2008-09_flu_qa.htm