Flu shots for medical school employees

Fall is here — time for picking apples, carving pumpkins and getting a flu shot.

The School of Medicine again will offer free flu shots to its faculty, staff and students at various locations this fall.

“Flu shots are for the benefit of employees and their families, and in a health-care setting, it’s particularly important in terms of protecting our patients, especially for older individuals,” said James P. Crane, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs and chief executive of the Faculty Practice Plan. “While we encourage older persons to have the flu vaccine, their immune response is not always as robust as in younger people, and older adults are the most vulnerable to severe illness and death from influenza.”

Crane said older adults make up 30 percent to 40 percent of the patients served by Washington University Medical Center.

“We strongly encourage anyone involved with patient care or human research subjects to get vaccinated for their protection and for the protection of patients,” said Karen Winters, M.D., director of the Occupational Health Service at the School of Medicine and assistant professor of medicine. “Since our students are also patient caretakers, that includes them, too.”

The CDC has recommended since 1984 that health-care workers be vaccinated annually.

Vaccine manufacturers are expected to have an all-time high supply of the vaccine available for the 2008-09 flu season with as many as 143 million to 146 million doses manufactured for use in the United States. Winters said the School of Medicine expects to have an adequate supply.

Each year, scientists work to match the viruses in the vaccine to those expected to cause the most illness in that year. This year’s influenza vaccine contains three new influenza virus strains. It can protect against these three viruses, or it can make illness milder for those with a related but different strain of flu virus. Because the flu strains change each year, it’s important to get a flu shot annually, experts say.

Other ways to protect against the flu are to frequently wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after using the restroom, blowing the nose, coughing or changing diapers. Always cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Those with the flu should stay home from work to avoid infecting others. Prescription antiviral medications that can reduce the duration of the flu and lessen its symptoms are also available, but they must be taken within two days of developing the flu.

Flu shot schedule

The following locations offer School of Medicine employees a free flu vaccination. Employees and students must bring their badge with them to obtain the vaccination and be prepared to supply their employee ID number on the consent form.

School of Medicine
Nov. 6, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., 4444 Forest Park Ave. (main lobby)

Nov. 18, 9 a.m.-11 a.m., 4480 Clayton Ave. (Room 1145)

Nov. 18, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., East Building, 4525 Scott Ave. (third floor, Room 3420)

Nov. 19, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., McDonnell Pediatric Research Building (main lobby, next to the bookstore)

Nov. 25, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., East Building, 4525 Scott Ave. (third floor, Room 3420)

St. Louis Children’s Hospital
Nov. 11, 7:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m., noon-3 p.m, Northwest Tower, 4990 Children’s Place (8th floor, Conference Room 8a)

Nov. 21, 7:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m., noon-3 p.m, Northwest Tower, 4990 Children’s Place (8th floor, Conference Room 8a)

Barnes-Jewish Hospital South
Nov. 12, 1 p.m.-3 p.m., Ortho Dept. Suite 11300

Barnes-Jewish Hospital West County
Nov. 13, 8 a.m.-10 a.m., 969 N. Mason Road (in the lobby by the vending machines); and 1 p.m.-3 p.m., Professional Building One (main lobby)