AIRPORTS READY FOR PASSENGERS SEEKING FLU SHOTS
You've been reminded of these figures a lot already and in the next few weeks and months you'll hear them a lot more. But if you spend time on the road shaking hands, opening doors, or sitting on an airplane or in an airport terminal, it will be worth your while to take a few seconds for a quick review: According to experts at the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, each year 5% to 20% of the U.S. population will get the flu. More than 200,000 people will end up hospitalized from flu complications. And about 36,000 people will die from flu related causes.
CHART: Airports offering flu shots
That's just the "regular" or seasonal flu. This year the 2009-2010 H1NI flu is out there; the one causing the first influenza pandemic (global outbreak of disease) in more than 40 years. So it's more important than ever for anyone who travels to do what they can to stay healthy. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, of course. If you can, stay away from anyone who's already sick. And while you may need to wait until sometime in December to get a vaccine to protect you against the H1N1 flu, right now the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is urging pretty much everyone to get a seasonal flu shot as soon as possible.
The good news for frequent travelers is that "as soon as possible" could be on the way to their next flight. This year, more airports than ever are offering the chance to get the flu shot on the fly. And because of current fears over the flu, several airports are rolling out their service early.
A growing trend
For years, airport and airline employees knew they could drop in at O'Hare International Airport's UIC Medical Center to get a seasonal flu shot. Few passengers, however, ever stopped in to take care of that task. That all changed a few years ago, when the clinic set up flu shot kiosks on the concourse and out by the gates; first at O'Hare airport and then at Chicago's Midway Airport. The first year or two, the registered nurses staffing the booths got some funny looks. But last year, between the two airports, more than 5,000 travelers rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated. I was one of them — rather than sit around being irritated by a flight delay, I marched myself over to the flu shot kiosk at O'Hare. Several other passengers from my flight lined up behind me.
We were in good company. During the 2008 flu season, travelers could get flu shots at about two dozen airports, including San Francisco International Airport, Des Moines International Airport, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Denver International Airport, and others. Jeff Butler of FLU*Ease, the Chicago-based company that organizes and staffs the flu shot kiosks at more than a half dozen airports, says last year the company went through more than 40,000 flu vaccines. This year, they're planning to give out more than 125,000. "There are more airports offering flu shots," says Butler, "But there's more concern over the flu and more people aware of the potential of the illness."
Later this year, when the H1N1 flu vaccine becomes available, it's possible that some state health departments will decide to make the vaccine available through airport clinics. For now, it's the seasonal flu vaccine being offered. And because of the heightened awareness, several airport clinics, including the UIC Medical Center at O'Hare, Orlando International Airport's Solantic clinic, and the AeroClinic at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, began offering flu shots to the public back around Labor Day, even though the official flu season doesn't usually begin until October. And airports such as Tampa International, which in the past offered flu shot clinics for employees only, arranged to have flu shot kiosks available for the traveling public.
Over the next few weeks, flu shot programs will be rolling out at Louisville International Airport, Sacramento International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport and others. Harmony Pharmacy will offer flu shots at its year-round clinics and from temporary kiosks at New York JFK and Newark-Liberty airports. A spokesperson from Airport MD said that company hopes to offer flu shots by October 1st in Miami, Las Vegas and Minneapolis-St. Paul airports. Several other airports, including San Diego International Airport and Oakland International Airport, are still working out their flu shot program details. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which for the past three years has been able to offer flu shots for free during a few days towards the end of the season, expects that this year it will be able to do the same.
2009 AIRPORTS OFFERING FLU SHOTS
Airport Location Cost* Hours** More information
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) AeroClinic: Main Terminal Atrium, third level, pre-security.
Kiosks: Two on Concourses A, B and C; one on Concourse D.
Drugs & More store: Near the main security checkpoint area. $35 Clinic: Mon. - Fri.: 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat.: 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Sun.: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Kiosks: Mon. - Fri.: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat.: 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.; Sun.: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Drugs & More: Mon. - Fri.: 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat.: 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. (404) 616-6000;
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) Concentra Medical Center: On airport grounds, 1 Harborside Dr. (Take free airport bus #66 to Logan Office Center.) $25 Mon. - Fri., 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. (617) 568-6500;
Charlotte -Douglas International Airport (CLT) Kiosk will move to various locations. $35 Starts Sept. 18.
Mon. - Fri.: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat.: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun.: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. (703) 359-4000
O'Hare International Airport (ORD) UIC Medical Center: Terminal 2, post-security.
Kiosks: Terminal 1 (Concourse B and C), Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, post-security. $35 Clinic: Mon. - Fri.: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat. - Sun.: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Kiosks: Mon. - Fri.: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat.: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun.: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. (773) 894-5100;
Midway International Airport (MDW) Kiosk just past security. $35 Starts Oct. 1.
Mon. - Fri.: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat.: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun.: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. (773) 894-5100;
Des Moines International Airport (DSM) Lower terminal level, pre-security. $20 Now - Nov. 25.