The Baltimore city and county health departments are offering free or reduced-price flu vaccinations to senior citizens and others at high risk for the disease.
They are stepping in to alleviate shortages caused by manufacturing delays, shortages that have left many doctors with little or no vaccine to offer their patients.
"We want to stop getting out the message that there's a delay, and start getting out the message that we have the vaccine," Dr. Peter Beilenson, the city health commissioner, said yesterday.
The city health department plans to hold eight clinics at community and senior citizen centers through Dec. 20. The vaccine will be offered free of charge, though senior citizens are being asked to bring Medicare cards so the city can get reimbursed.
Next week, clinics will be held Tuesday noon to 3 p.m. at Lakeview Towers Senior Apartments, 727 Druid Park Lake Dr., and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hispanic Apostolate/Joseph Center, 430 S. Broadway.
For additional locations, call the city health department at 410-396-4454.
Baltimore County will provide influenza and pneumonia vaccinations Monday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Towson Health Center, 1046 Taylor Ave.
The costs are $10 for influenza and $7 for pneumonia vaccine. Both are covered by Medicare. For additional information, call 410-887-2723.
Both localities are inviting senior citizens and people with heart disease, asthma or other chronic illnesses to get the vaccine.
Beilenson said the city has purchased 5,500 doses of vaccine at a cost of $46,000 from Wyeth-Ayerst, one of three flu vaccine manufacturers, and from a "middleman" who bought up much of the supply and resold it at higher prices.
It is important for high-risk people to get vaccinated soon, said Beilenson. The flu season typically stretches from December to June, and the vaccine takes about three weeks to provide immunity.
In an average year, the disease kills about 20,000 people in the United States, most of them seniors.