Michael Jordan and Zita Givens have something in common. Hoopster
Jordan was long renowned for his great shots. But he has little
on Givens, at least off the court. The National Institute on Aging
program analyst has a nice shot of her own — one that required
her to visit the Clinical Center, where she rolled up her sleeve
and took advantage of a key employee benefit — getting her
annual free flu shot.
Givens is a true believer in flu shots. She has been vaccinated
at the NIH clinic for at least 10 years, except for last year,
when only NIH health care providers and persons designated "at
risk" by the CDC were able to get vaccinated, due to a critical
nationwide shortage of the vaccine.
"It was so smooth this year. I was fortunate. There was virtually
no line, and I was in and out of there in probably less than 5
minutes," recalls Givens, whose family members, like her, have
also been vaccinated this year (at an outside facility).
The annual "Foil the Flu" campaign is a joint venture of the Occupational
Medical Service, Division of Occupational Health Services, Office
of Research Services and the Clinical Center Hospital Epidemiology
Service (HES). While the flu clinic has been operating for 20 years,
this year's program was not held in its usual spot at the OMS clinic
on Bldg. 10's 6th floor. It was held in a new venue — outside
of the OMS offices on the 5th floor of the new Hatfield Clinical
"It's what we call a dedicated clinic and it worked beautifully," noted
Angela Michelin, infection control specialist with HES. She handles
publicity and other administrative duties in connection with the
flu program. Meanwhile, the day-to-day details of the clinic were
handled primarily by two nurses, Joan Morris and Marge McCombs,
though many OMS nurses had a hand in administering the vaccine.
This year's flu clinic began on Nov. 7 with the program operating
in three phases — running through the alphabet, visiting
off-campus facilities and then running through the alphabet again,
with the program concluding at the end of November. During the
first week of operation, nearly 4,000 employees were vaccinated.
Prior to opening the clinic to employees, the OMS nurses also vaccinated
almost 1,900 NIH health care workers. By Thanksgiving, nearly 7,600
employees had been vaccinated.
One advantage of getting a flu vaccination from the NIH clinic
is the availability of the vaccine. While some private practitioners
are still having difficulty obtaining the vaccine, "last spring
the NIH ordered about 10,000 doses," said Dr. James Schmitt, medical
director of the OMS clinic. "The number of doses administered at
NIH has increased over the years," he said, adding that because
of good planning, NIH typically has no problem obtaining supplies
of the vaccine.
Besides the change of venue, this year's flu clinic had a secondary
and separate purpose from clinics in years past. "It was good practice
for a potential disaster, such as might be seen in the case of
bioterrorism or pandemic influenza. This preparedness training
actually began 2 years ago in collaboration with the Navy and Suburban
Hospital," said Michelin. She added that the success of the clinic "tells
us that this type of mass vaccination clinic really can work during
an emergency state."
The flu, a contagious infection of the nose, throat and lungs,
is caused by the influenza virus. The illness is viewed as a major
health risk, primarily to specific groups, including the elderly
and those with chronic heart, lung or kidney ailments or people
with an immunodeficiency disease (e.g., HIV/AIDS). About 36,000
people a year die from complications of the flu, according to the
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. While medical
experts strongly urge that high-risk individuals take the vaccine,
unless it is not medically advised, anyone who wishes to avoid
the flu can take the shot.
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine depends on how accurate predictions
of the flu strain turn out to be. "If we predict the strains correctly,
then the vaccine is about 80 percent effective," said OMS's Schmitt.
Though this year's Foil the Flu campaign has ended, you may still
be able to get vaccinated by calling the OMS clinic at (301) 496-4411.
Or you can check with your local health clinic or health care provider
about receiving the vaccine.
Still, you may be wondering, should you get a flu shot? "Get the
flu just one time and I think the answer will be pretty obvious," concluded