NEWS YOU CAN USE | Where to get a flu shot — right now in 2013


With the flu epidemic ramping up in Minnesota and nationwide, where can you get your flu shot? My pharmacy ran out of vaccine last week, as did many others. If you still need to find a flu shot, try calling ahead to be sure that the clinic or pharmacy still has shots available. I found two sites with listings of places you can get flu shots — the Minnesota Department of Health and HealthMap.

For either site, you can plug in your zip code to find places to get a flu shot. When I searched, using my 55104 zip code, the MN Department of Health search turned up only six sites. The HealthMap search turned up dozens of sites, including Cub, Walgreens, CVS, Target, Health Partners, Pro Pharmacy, and many more.

Is the flu shot perfect? Absolutely not, but it’s better than not getting a flu shot. If you want to read a good analysis, check out Maura Lerner’s article in the Star Tribune. Among the points made:

“University of Minnesota scientist Michael Osterholm is even more blunt, calling the flu vaccine ‘overpromoted and overhyped.’

“Osterholm, a former Minnesota state epidemiologist, hastens to point out that he and his family still get flu shots.” 

And here are some official words on the flu season from a Minnesota Department of Health press release:

“New data released by the Minnesota Department of Health today clearly shows that the state is experiencing a very severe flu season, with significant numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
“Although the numbers of hospitalizations reported rivals the 2009 pandemic, there is no evidence of a new influenza virus circulating and state health officials stressed that the profile of the disease outbreak is very much in keeping with other very severe seasonal influenza years.
“To date, Minnesota hospitals have reported 1,121 hospitalizations due to influenza-like illness. For the week ending Jan. 5 alone, there were 401 hospitalizations, similar to a peak week in the 2009-10 pandemic. MDH has confirmed a total so far of 27 deaths due to influenza or influenza-related complications. In addition, there were 28 outbreaks in long-term care facilities over the past week. …

“It’s important for all Minnesota residents to do what they can to protect themselves from influenza and limit the spread of the disease. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, get vaccinated for influenza. It’s not too late. Influenza vaccination is now recommended for everyone six months and older unless they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. It is especially important that those at high risk for serious complications from influenza be vaccinated. These include pregnant women, seniors, young children and those with chronic medical conditions.
“Children under six months of age cannot receive influenza vaccine, so household contacts and caretakers should be vaccinated to protect the very young. Older people and those with medical conditions may not respond as well to the vaccine as others and household contacts and caretakers of these individuals should also be vaccinated.
“During flu season, besides getting vaccinated, there are other steps people can take to avoid spreading or catching influenza:

  • Do your best to stay healthy. Get plenty of rest, physical activity and healthy eating.
  • Stay home from school or work if you have a respiratory infection. Avoid exposing yourself to others who are sick with flu-like illness.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
  • Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.”

“The symptoms of influenza, which tend to come on suddenly, can include a sore throat, coughing, fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. People who become severely ill or those at risk for severe disease with influenza, who have influenza-like symptoms contact their healthcare provider promptly. Influenza is caused by a virus and antibiotics are not effective against it, although antivirals such as oseltamivir and zanamivir are effective, especially if given shortly after the development of symptoms.”