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Chicago seniors show strength in numbers at the city's first round of free vaccination clinics this season.

Chicago seniors flock to free flu shots

by Julia Dilday
Oct 21, 2008

More than 1,000 Chicagoans are entering flu season with peace of mind and no damage to their wallets after attending the first round of the city’s free vaccination clinics last week.

Nurses vaccinated 1,300 Chicago residents at 13 clinics in the week-long kickoff.

The single-day clinics were the first of nearly 100 scheduled citywide, jointly hosted by the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.  Officials said they will make the 50,000 doses of vaccine purchased by the city easily available to all who want – and need – them.  Local parks, aldermanic offices and senior centers are common sites.

The city's Central West Regional Office hosted one of one of last week’s clinics.  Nurses successfully vaccinated 131 seniors, many of whom already patronize the center on a daily basis for meals, exercise and support groups.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children ages 6 months through 18 years and all people over the age of 50 get vaccinated.  Pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions and people living or working around people at high risk for the flu should also be vaccinated.  This includes parents and caretakers of infants, the elderly and the chronically ill population, according to the CDC.

Dr. Julie Morita, medical director of the city’s vaccination program, said anyone who wants the vaccine can get it to protect themselves and the people around them.



“You can transmit the illness before you get symptoms,” Morita said.  “So people say, ‘Oh, when I get sick I just stay home so I won’t give it to anybody else.’  But the problem is you can give the illness to people prior to becoming sick.  You may not even realize you’re sick and you’re spreading it to other people already.”

Morita said some people forego the flu shot because of misconceptions about the illness.

“During the flu season there are many other viruses that cause respiratory illnesses,” Morita said.  “So people will get a cold and think that it’s the flu.  But when you get the flu you actually have a high fever, a fairly abrupt onset; you feel bad, your body aches, your joints and muscles feel bad.  And you’re in bed.”

Morita said it is impossible to predict when the flu will strike; therefore it’s never too early (or too late) in the season to get vaccinated.