A federal program is letting some Hoosier children get a flu shot for free, along with their regular school vaccinations. IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann boarded a mobile health unit in Delaware County to learn how the program could make schools safer this flu season.
When I step onto the Open Door Health Service’s Mobile Health Unit, parked this day outside Muncie Central High School, it becomes very clear very fast that nurse practitioner Ann Simpson is both passionate about her job and has seen a lot of influenza cases.
“Most people think influenza is being sick to your stomach. If you get influenza, you are very sick. Normally very high fevers, a severe cough, and you ache all over.”
That’s why she recommends a flu shot to everyone. And I mean, everyone –
“It makes no difference how old or how young you are. Everybody is susceptible, everybody is exposed to influenza.”
For some children in Indiana, that flu shot could be free, because of the national program called Vaccines for Children. Besides giving no-cost state-required vaccines to children on Medicaid, and those who are uninsured or underinsured, it also offers flu shots.
State numbers show one in three Hoosier children are covered by Medicaid. And 6.6 percent of all Hoosier children are uninsured.
In Delaware County, where Open Door Health’s mobile unit roams four days a week, more than 11,000 children could be eligible for those free flu shots. That’s according to Covering Kids and Families of Indiana.
The mobile unit is also in Madison County once a week, many times at school locations. Simpson says a school environment means a crowd, and that means susceptibility.
“If you have cramped people in a small space like you have at school, if you’re sick, you’re giving it to other people. Children, when they go to school, pick it up from other children, who take it to their home to their parents and then to their grandparents.”
Once you get a shot, it takes two weeks for your immune system to build up immunity to influenza. Simpson says by this time of the year, those getting flu shots are already playing catch-up. Which is at least better than catching the virus.
You can find a Vaccines For Children health provider in your county here.