HANCOCK - Flu season is fast approaching, and for the sixth year, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is conducting immunization clinics in its coverage area.
Peter Baril, health department emergency preparedness coordinator, said besides offering flu immunizations, the clinics are really a method for the health department to practice mass immunizations for emergencies, such as epidemics or acts of terrorism.
"We put a lot of effort into planning and developing where this can be done," he said. "It's a great opportunity to work with our hospitals."
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Ed Sleeman of Hancock receives a flu shot in October 2010 from then-Gogebic Community College nursing student Carmin Heinonen during the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department flu shot clinic in the Hancock Central High School gymnasium. This year’s clinic will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the gym.
Besides health department staff, Baril said the immunization clinic from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the Hancock Central High School gymnasium will include personnel from Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital and Portage Health, as well as nursing students from Finlandia University and Gogebic Community College.
Baril said the first immunization clinic this year was on Sept. 15 at GCC in Ironwood. There will be another clinic from 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 6 at Baraga County Memorial Hospital, and from 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 20 at the Ontonagon schools.
Almost everyone should get flu immunization, Baril said.
"The current recommendation is anyone 6 months and older," he said.
Young children, people 65 years old or older, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions should especially be immunized, Baril said.
"They are at the greatest risk for flu complications," he said.
Baril said the flu immunizations cost $25 if paying with cash or check. There is no charge for people with valid Medicare or Medicaid coverage. The federal Vaccines for Children program will cover children whose parents are uninsured. Those with private insurance will be given a form to present to their insurance company.
"We can't bill private insurance at the mass clinic," he said.
Baril said at the Ironwood clinic, people were timed from start to finish at six minutes.
"It's fast and convenient," he said. "It's much faster than any other option you can find."
Despite the speed of the clinics, Baril said the number of people taking part in the mass clinics is trending down because there are so many other places they can be found, including at clinics in department stores and pharmacies.