bphc_blue_logoWalgreens increases support for flu prevention efforts with donation of free flu shot vouchers

Following Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s declaration of a public health emergency for the flu epidemic in Boston last week, 24 free flu clinics throughout the city vaccinated over 7,000 people this past weekend.  To help support the city’s flu prevention efforts, Walgreens has provided hundreds of flu shot vouchers to the Boston Public Health Commission.  Each voucher is good for one flu shot for an adult over the age of 18 at any Walgreens pharmacy and available while supplies last for those without health insurance and who cannot afford the cost of a flu shot without the voucher.  Vouchers may be obtained by contacting the Mayor’s Health Line at (617) 534-5050 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We took swift action to raise awareness about how severe this year’s flu season is, and we’re thrilled that so many people responded by going out and getting their flu shot this weekend,” Mayor Menino said.  “The free public flu clinics were a great success, and I’m proud to have such strong partners in our community health centers.  They made sure that residents could get their flu shot quickly and close to home.  Now, I want to thank Walgreens for its generous support and for helping us make sure people have access to the flu vaccine.”

The Boston Public Health Commission worked closely with community health centers over the weekend to monitor their vaccine inventories and to ensure that locations had a sufficient amount on hand to satisfy the increased demand.  The commission distributed approximately 6,500 doses of flu vaccine to help health centers supplement their existing supplies, and officials have ordered an additional 2,500 doses to support upcoming public flu clinics.  A calendar of free public flu clinics is available at www.bphc.org, and people can call the Mayor’s Health Line for more information.

According to the latest figures from the Boston Public Health Commission, there have been over 950 confirmed cases of the flu among Boston residents since October 1, compared to 70 cases all of last season.  Eight residents, including seven seniors and one child under the age of six, have passed away from flu-related illnesses this season.  Flu cases now account for over five percent of all emergency department visits at Boston hospitals, compared to about one percent during non-influenza season.  Of the cases reported to date in Boston residents, twenty five percent of those sick with the flu have been ill enough to require hospitalization.

“We hope this weekend’s efforts combined with the support of companies like Walgreens will help to stem the flow of flu activity in Boston,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission.  “We want to keep encouraging folks get vaccinated if they haven’t already because we’re only halfway through the flu season, and it doesn’t seem that activity has peaked quite yet.”

Certain people, including the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain underlying health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease), are at greater risk for serious illness if they get influenza.  Some individuals may not be at risk for severe illness themselves, but can transmit the infection to others.

Health officials suggest the follow tips to avoid getting sick or spreading germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing. If water is not nearby, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs can spread this way.
  • As much as possible, avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have a fever or feel ill, stay home.