Achoo! Airports offering flu shots

Flu shot no spitting

Thrilled, once again, to be doing a short (one-day this time) fill-in for Ben Mutzabaugh on the Today in the Sky blog at USA Today.

For the first entry of the day: my annual “where to get your flu shot at the airport” round-up.

Forget the headlines and the hysteria. As this chart explains, it’s far easier to catch the flu than Ebola when you’re out in public or on an airplane.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year more than 200,000 people end up hospitalized from seasonal-flu related complications. Some of them die.

So, doctors say, don’t take chances. And don’t say you’re too busy traveling to get vaccinated. While not as common as it was in the past, a handful of airports – including the ones listed below – offer flu shots on the fly for prices ranging from free (with proof of medical insurance card) to about $35.

It’s been a number of years since Cleveland Hopkins International Airport offered flu shots, but this year the airport is partnering with the local health department to host flu shot clinics November 11 and 18, from 8 a.m. to noon, on the secure side of the security checkpoint, at Gate C2.

“It’s truly a win-win situation. Business travelers clearly appreciate the convenience of getting the flu vaccine right here at CLE, and preventing the flu is our business,” said Toinette Parrilla, director of the Cleveland Department of Public Health, in a statement.

At O’Hare International Airport, travelers can get a flu shot at the O’Hare Medical Clinic (773.894.5100), located in Terminal 2, or at one of the temporary kiosks in Terminals 1 and 3.

Flu shots are also available at the SFO Medical Clinic (650.821.5600) in the International Terminal Main Hall (on Boarding Area A side) at San Francisco International Airport, at the McCarran Medical Clinic and Pharmacy (702.261.6707) in Terminal 1 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and at Nashville International Airport at the CareHere! Walk-in Clinic and Wellness Store (615.275.1820), post-security near the Concourse C exit.

Clinics nearby some major airports offer flu shots to travelers as well.
At Los Angeles International Airport, the 24-hour Reliant Immediate Care (310-215-6020) is on airport property and a short walk from the terminals. At both JFK International Airport and Newark Liberty International airports, branches of Airport Medical Offices are located on airport property and accessible via buses or shuttles. (JFK: 718-244-1644; Newark: 973-643-8383)

“Our customers are people who just don’t have time to go somewhere to get a flu shot,” said Kelly Butler, general manager of Nashville International Airport’s CareHere! clinic, “But everyone arrives early for their flight, so it’s a great opportunity to get it done.”

Get your flu shot at the airport

Should you get a flu shot?

It’s time to get a flu shot and being on the road all the time isn’t an excuse anymore for avoiding that task.

Especially since, as I wrote in my column on USATODAY.com this week, there are more than 23 airports where you can get a flu shot on the fly.

Flu shot kiosk

Here’s the story:
Robert Gibbs stays busy running his marketing agency and says finding time to nail down a doctor’s appointment is getting harder and harder.

So on Monday, when he arrived from Chicago and saw that the Harmony Pharmacy store at New York’s JFK airport was offering flu shots, he took off his heavy tweed jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeve. “I’d shopped there before and just thought ‘Now is as good a time as any.’ I didn’t feel weird at all,” said Gibbs, “In fact, getting a flu shot while running through the airport seemed pretty cool.”

First marketed to travelers by the medical clinic at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport seven or eight years ago, in-airport flu shots are being offered this year at clinics and temporary kiosks at close to two dozen airports stretching from Los Angeles to Miami.

“Flu costs Americans an estimated $3 billion or more each year in medical fees and indirect costs such as missed work,” said Jeff Hamiel, executive director of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, in announcing the three vaccination stations now open at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “Making vaccinations available at the airport ensures that even the busiest travelers can take steps to stay healthy and productive.”

The CDC and Dr. Z agree

The 2010-2011 flu season began in early October and, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the season will probably peak in January or February and possibly stretch into the spring. CDC recommends everyone 6 months or older get vaccinated and, unlike last year, says it’s not necessary to get a separate shot to protect against the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. “The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against an influenza A H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.”

At Chicago O’Hare, flu shots have been available at the airport medical clinic since August and at a stand-alone kiosk since Labor Day. “We don’t know what the flu season will be like this year yet,” says Dr. John Zautcke, Medical Director of the UIC-O’Hare Medical Clinic, “But the flu is a nasty disease that kills people who are old and sick and puts people that are young and healthy in bed for 4-6 days.”

Zautcke says that in addition to frequent hand washing, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and trying to avoid close contact with sick people – which can be hard to do on an airplane – “The best thing travelers can do to avoid the flu is get a flu shot.”

Plenty of vaccines but fewer patients

Starting in November last year, there was a nationwide shortage of the seasonal flu vaccine because pharmaceutical companies switched to making vaccines for the H1N1 virus. This year, the vaccines are combined and there’s no shortage. But Jeff Butler of Flu*Ease, the company operating flu shot kiosks at more than a half-dozen airports, says airport flu shots don’t seem to be selling as robustly as they have in past years. “I don’t know whether it’s the mild weather, last year’s frenzy over H1N1 or the fact that people now have access to flu shots in so many stores and corporate offices,” says Butler.

“We’re finding the same thing,” says Rosemary Kelly, executive vice president of AeroClinic, which is offering flu shots this year at airports in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Baltimore and Minneapolis-St. Paul. “It just doesn’t seem to be as hot of a topic this year as it was last year.”

Not deterred

That isn’t stopping some airports from expanding their flu shot offerings. This year, San Diego International Airport has five vaccination stations in operation throughout the terminals. Four stations are located post-security, but one station is in a baggage claim area to make it easy for meeters and greeters, and passengers picking up checked bags, to get vaccinated while they wait. And at New York’s JFK Airport, Harmony Pharmacy is waiting for the final OK to open a second flu-shot station; this one in the center of JetBlue’s Terminal 5, by the performance stage.

And the fact that the flu isn’t in the news right now didn’t deter Diane Callen from getting her flu shot at the airport. Callen, a customer service agent at the Las Vegas airport, was robbed over the weekend. “Let’s just say I don’t need to worry about my jewelry anymore,” she said on Monday. After visiting the police station to fill out paperwork, Callen stopped at the Airport MD booth at McCarran International Airport before reporting for work. “It’s one of those things I usually don’t do unless it’s convenient and I figured the way things are going for me, I’d better go get that flu shot.”

To see which airports are offering flu shots – at clinics or at temporary kiosks – scroll down to the bottom of the article: Get your flu shot on the fly at an airport near you.

You’ll find a chart listing listing locations, hours and prices for flu shots at 23 airports.

Flu shot no spitting

Tidbits for travelers: Free trips and free flu shots

Doesn’t Paris sound good right about now?

Then sign up to win a pair of tickets (from Pittsburgh) to Paris – courtesy of Pittsburgh’s WHIRL Magazine, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and Delta Air Lines, Entries will be accepted through May 7, 2010. But why wait?

Lufthansa Airlines isn’t giving away tickets to Paris, but if you suggest the winning name of the airline’s new A380 airplane, you’ll win a million miles and can go where you want.

The names I entered? Spot. Pookie. Stripe.

Think you can do better?  Then enter Lufthansa’s contest here.

[And keep in mind: Lufthsansa pilots are planning  a strike from February 22-25, 2010. So if you already have a trip scheduled during those days, be sure to check with the airline on the status of your flight.]

It’s still flu season and there are still lots of airports where you can get a seasonal or H1N1 flu vaccine.

If you’re heading to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) you can get an H1N1 flu shot (or mist ) for free.

For the fourth year in a row the airport is partnering with local health organizations to offer free flu vaccines to passengers.  The vaccines will be available Monday, February 22 through Friday, February 26 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – at Sky Harbor’s Terminal 4 on level 3 before the security checkpoints on both the east and west ends

And, when you’re shopping at an airport in the next few weeks, consider dropping some bills into one of the collection boxes  the Hudson Group has placed in each of its airport stores, including Hudson News, Hudson Booksellers, cafes and specialty retail shops.  The company is matching customer donations and will forward all contributions to the American Red Cross for the relief efforts in Haiti.