The room had a lively atmosphere with community banter and laughing from the nurses. One of the women residents asked a young boy getting his shot if he was going to take his mom to the local mother-son dance Saturday night while he was getting his vaccine.
A public health worker helping fill out registration forms asked, “Are you gonna dance with your mom? You gotta dance with your mom!”
The community event was organized by Chicago Department of Public Health’s end-of-year flu vaccine clinics for Vaccinate Illinois Week (VIW).
The Chicago Department of Public Health has teamed up with health departments and healthcare organizations in Illinois to encourage residents to get flu shots during VIW, which runs through Saturday.
“What we do in December and what we’ve been doing this for the last three years is we partner with various other programs to promote vaccinate Illinois week,” said Maribel-Chavez Torres, program director for the Immunization program. “It’s kind of our last push to say, ‘It’s not too late to get vaccinated.’”
The CDPH invites all 50 wards to host a clinic, sending out requests in April and May to then start working with the aldermen on ideas for locations and dates. But the decision on location, date and whether it’s during the week or weekend is left up to the aldermen, Torres said.
“It’s a wonderful thing for the community,” said Mary Dunne, a resident who received the flu vaccine Saturday. “There are people who are hesitant and they see the signs and they think, ‘Oh what the heck, I didn’t get it yet maybe I should get it now.’”
The CDPH started Vaccinate Chicago Week in 2012 in an effort to get more residents protected against the illness. This year’s campaign that started in August, put on by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the CDPH, used the slogan “I AM AN OUTBREAK.”
The slogan can be seen on ads on the L and on bus stops to show that influenza can easily spread from person to person.
In the U.S., up to 20 percent of the population is infected with the flu every year and 200,000 people are hospitalized for it, making it an “outbreak,” according to the City of Chicago’s website.
Donna Williamson and her son, Courtney, got flu vaccines on Saturday. Donna said she has been getting flu shots for 7 or 8 years now.
“So far it’s been great for me,” she said. “Before that I’d get the flu off and on.”
The end-of-the-year clinics are free with no cost to the individual, so residents without health insurance can get the vaccine.
“I don’t have health care and I’m happy to get this service because I’m unemployed so it helps,” Williamson said.
Her son added, “A lot of people can’t get flu shots because of the expense.”
The nurses who work the weekend vaccine clinics are city nurses, hired by the CDPH.
Along with the end-of-the-year clinics, the CDPH also schedules family flu clinics for the “constituents and the community,” Torrez said. The family flu clinics take place in November at five city colleges and are promoted so that families are encouraged to come get vaccinated.
“On average, we do about 60 flu clinics throughout the city of the Chicago per year,” Torrez said.
The City of Chicago also offers advice on its website about ways to avoid the flu and reduce risk by doing things like “washing your hands regularly with soap and water,” “avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth,” and staying at home from work and school if you’re sick.”
Dunne said she came to get her flu shot after she had been putting it off for a couple weeks because she was scared of getting ill as a reaction to the shot.
“I decided I would come and get it and I’ve seen people who get it who get really sick after the shot but I’d rather get a little reaction than get sick,” Dunne said. “But it was so convenient, and I decided this is what I’d do.”
Torrez explained that an after-shot reaction shouldn’t be a concern.
“Some people may experience a localized reaction,” Torrez said. “Though we do have some people with the conception that if they get the flu shot they’re going to get the flu, so we work with them and explain to them that that typically does not happen.”
After the vaccine is in the body, it takes 5 to 10 days for the body to build the antibodies so if a patient gets a flu shot on Saturday and feels ill on Monday it is not because of the shot, it’s because he or she came in contact with the virus elsewhere, Torrez said.
Besides educating and offering clinics for the flu vaccine, the CDPH has three other main events they put on throughout the calendar year: infant immunization week, HPV campaign and the back-to-school campaign.
“So we’re touching across the spectrum, the little babies, our adolescents, our flu campaign, which is a general campaign,” Torrez said.
Dunne said she was happy to be able to attend an event in her community.
“I would hate to get the flu and think, ‘Oh man it was offered at my corner practically,’” Dunne said.