Steve Plotts remembers the last time he had the flu — it was in 2005, to be exact — all too well.
Every year since then, the 65-year-old White Marsh man and his wife, Linda, have been coming to the Community College of Baltimore County, Essex, for free flu shots, administered by staff of MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in its annual giveaway. None of them have had the flu since.
“It’s become a ritual now,” said Plotts, sitting in the car with Linda and one of their sons, Jesse. “It doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day. You don’t even have to get out of the car.”
A total of 823 attendees — nearly 400 of them in the first half-hour — pulled into one of the five lanes set up in the community college’s parking lot, signed a consent form, rolled up their sleeves and received free shots, according to MedStar Health spokeswoman Carrie Wells.
Many were lined up more than an hour before the 8:30 a.m. event began, said Teresa Muns, chair of emergency medicine at Franklin Square. More than 100 shots were given in the first 10 minutes.
The hospital hasn’t had many flu cases yet this year, but officials hope to vaccinate as many people as possible before the season is in full swing. The flu killed 80,000 people, including 180 children, in the last flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“People need to get their flu shots before flu season starts,” Muns said. “They can come, drive up and get their shot — no appointment necessary.”
The CDC recommends everyone age six months and older get a flu vaccine every fall unless they have a medical condition that prevents it. Children and the elderly are most vulnerable, experts say.
Eight-year-old Josh McCullough was among the children who had tears in their eyes as they got their vaccinations in the parking lot Sunday.
Josh’s shot came with a twist: his mom, Daishon McCulloh, unit manager of one of the hospital’s surgery teams, administered it.
“Don’t make a muscle,” she urged her son. “It only hurts if you make a muscle.”
He got out of the car for his shot, shed a tear, and walked slowly back afterward. One volunteer gave him a doughnut for his troubles.
“My son was being dramatic,” Daishon McCulloh said, laughing.
Francis Le came for a vaccine with his son Napoleon, 8 — then returned with his two other sons, John Paul Le, 9, and Christopher Le, 6, so they could get theirs, too.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said the 62-year-old Essex man. “It’s good for the community. It’s good for everybody.”