Demand for vaccine prompts extra flu shot clinics in DuluthTwo more flu deaths were reported Friday in Duluth. Because of the demand for flu shots, Essentia Health added another walk-in clinic for Saturday.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Perhaps it was all the flu talk in the news. Perhaps it was the fact that kids had an unplanned day off of school. Perhaps it was a case of wives telling husbands: No more procrastinating.
Maybe it was a combination of all three.
Whatever the reason, an Essentia Health flu-shot clinic — announced just the day before — attracted about as many people on Friday as normally come for more than a week’s worth of clinics in the fall, Essentia spokeswoman Kim Kaiser said.
As of 4:15 p.m., 609 people had gotten flu shots in hopes of warding off the seasonal illness, Kaiser said. Typically, 100 flu shots will be given in one day when clinics are offered in the fall, she said.
Because of the demand, Essentia Health added another flu-shot clinic for Saturday. The vaccinations, recommended for anyone older than 6 months who hasn’t yet gotten a flu shot this season, will be offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, again in the lobby of the Essentia Health Duluth Clinic First Street Building, 420 E. First St. No appointment is necessary.
Previously announced clinics still are scheduled for next Thursday and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day in the same place.
More grim news underscored the potential seriousness of the flu threat. Two more patients at Essentia Health’s Duluth hospitals died because of flu-related illnesses, Kaiser said. That brings the total for the season up to seven. All were adults who had underlying conditions, Kaiser said, and six of the seven were elderly.
One death has been announced so far at St. Luke’s hospital in Duluth.
At the Duluth Clinic, about 20 adults and children still were lined up to register for shots at the central desk in the lobby late on Friday afternoon. The line had been much longer earlier in the day, extending out of the lobby, down a broad hallway and as far as the clinic’s Hearthstone Cafe, said Sheila Hawk, director of clinic operations for Essentia. In addition to three pods already set up in which to administer the shots privately, a fourth spot was added downstairs.
Staffers in the endocrinology department, looking down at the long line from their clinic on the second floor, offered to give shots, Hawk said. Soon, she was ushering people upstairs in groups of 10, and shots were being given three at a time. Seeing children coming their way — and not used to seeing children — the endocrinology staff found suckers and candy canes to give out to the kids. Then the oncology department also started giving shots as well, Hawk said.
By late afternoon, people weren’t waiting long in the lobby once they were registered. Minutes after they found seats, a nurse would emerge from one of the pods, call a number, and the shot would be given.
Patrick Eliason, 56, of Duluth was among those waiting. He was there for a simple reason.
“My wife works here,” said Eliason, who hadn’t gotten a flu shot in the past several years. “She insisted.”
Kaiser said she had heard similar answers from two other men in her conversations with people getting vaccinated.
Gina Zezulka, 35, of Esko works in the emergency room at Essentia and had gotten her shot in the fall. But she was at the clinic on Friday with her children, Ashley, 13, and Carter, 8, so they could get their shots.
Zezulka said she had seen and heard enough in the emergency room in recent days to convince her the children should be vaccinated.
“I’d hate for the kids to get sick and know that I could have done something to prevent it,” Zezulka said.
Like the Zezulka kids, 8-year-old Jocelyn Brown of Duluth had an unexpected day off from school on Friday. That gave her mom, Lindsay Brown, the chance she had been looking for.
“I’ve been meaning to get it done all winter,” said Brown, who works at the University of Minnesota Duluth and got her own shot at a clinic there in the fall.
Jocelyn had just gotten the nasal spray, available instead of a shot for ages 2 to 49. Her mom said she and her daughter both get vaccinated every year.
The vaccine is no guarantee you won’t get sick, but it improves your odds. On Friday, CDC officials said a recent study of more than 1,100 people concluded the current flu vaccine is 62 percent effective. That means the average vaccinated person is 62 percent less likely to get a case of flu that sends them to the doctor, compared to people who don’t get the vaccine. That’s in line with other years.
The vaccine is reformulated annually, and this year’s is a good match to the viruses going around, the Associated Press reported.