Flu is here: Where to get flu shots


The federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that flu is “widespread” in Minnesota, its highest category. That would be the flu variously known as H1N1 novel influenza, swine flu, or pandemic flu.

Students at the U of M lined up for flu shots for the “regular” flu, available to students who are 18 or over. Lots of places, including my doctor’s office, haven’t received the “regular flu” vaccine yet, due in part to delays from one of the manufacturers. And the swine flu vaccine won’t arrive until mid-October.

Getting “regular flu” shots The Minnesota Department of Health has a flu shot listing that sort of works — mdhflu.com. But the MDH listing is woefully incomplete. The only place it lists within ten miles of St. Paul for the next week is the Health Partners clinic in Bloomington on September 21, with flu shots costing $50. A series of phone calls turned up additional places at lower costs and more accessible locations.

The CVS-run Minute Clinics have flu shots daily, for $30 cash, and a CVS spokesperson notes that most insurance plans will cover that cost. The 24 Minnesota Minute Clinics tend to be in suburban locations, including Maplewood, White Bear Lake, Woodbury, Edina, and New Hope. The Minneapolis Minute Clinic is located at the International Center, 920 2nd Avenue South. The St. Paul Minute Clinic is located in the Centennial Building near the State Capitol at 658 Cedar Street. Hours vary, and you’ll probably need to go on-line for information, because nurse practitioners at the clinics “are swamped and probably won’t answer the phone,” according to the spokesperson at the national office. (I tried, and he’s right about that.)

Cub Food Stores also have flu shots right now, but you need to check their locator to find out the dates and times for individual stores. Other places with flu shots at various future dates are:
Snyder Drug Stores
Lunds and Byerlys
Regular CVS pharmacies

As for the swine flu shots, there’s been a lot of talk on the blogs about their safety. People have raised questions about how this vaccine could be developed and brought to market so quickly, and have voiced concerns about the 1976 flu  vaccine debacle. NPR’s Talk of the Nation had answers:

[T]hings are completely different today. The vaccine that’s going to be used during this fall’s swine flu vaccine campaign is based on the flu vaccine that we get every single year, the seasonal flu vaccine.What it is is they’re changing out the strain that is in the normal, seasonal flu vaccine and putting in this one. And that’s been tested for years, been put into tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of people in this country without any major side effects other than the normal, very, very low level of side effects that you might see with any vaccine.

The fact that the swine flu vaccine is built on the regular vaccine also explains how it was produced so quickly.

Meanwhile – cover those coughs, just like Mama told you, and stay home if you are sick!