Participation is down at Bethlehem Health Bureau’s flu shot clinics and the agency isn't sure if it’s because residents are getting shots elsewhere or if flu just isn’t on the public’s radar yet.
Judi Maloney, the bureau’s director, told the agency’s board Friday that the clinics they’ve had at locations such as Westgate Mall have not been as well attended as in the past. For example, the agency administered vaccines to 120 people at Westgate Mall on Tuesday and some years they've served as many as 300-400 people there. To date they've vaccinated 509 people at 10 sites.
The bureau has run some radio ads about the clinics and put up posters and Lehigh University students have helped the agency by delivering to restaurants placemats reminding people to get flu shots.
Dr. David Beckwith, chairman of the board, said often it takes some reports in the media of cases of influenza to galvanize citizens to get vaccinated. Other board members speculated that more people might be getting shots at the many pharmacies that offer them.
Remaining clinics for Bethlehem residents include:
* 4-7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17 at the YMCA at 430 E. Broad St.
* 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the First Presbyterian Church, 2344 Center St.
* 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1 at the Wesley United Methodist Church, 2540 Center St.
The clinics offer the vaccine or the nasal spray for $10. Some recipients of Medicare Part B might be eligible for free vaccines.
Maloney pointed out that Lehigh Valley Health Network will be offering free flu vaccines at their drive-thru clinics at Dorney Park 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.
The health bureau is working with Bethlehem Area School District on a clinic at the library at Liberty High School to vaccinate district students 4-7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26. As of last week, the district had already received consent forms for 600 students from 10 schools, Maloney said.
Beckwith said too many people underestimate the seriousness of influenza, often equating it with a bad cold.
“True influenza is awful,” he said.
Board Vice President Dr. Sally Hagerty concurred. “First you’re afraid you're going to die, then you're afraid you not,” she joked.