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Thu, Oct 16, 2008

Flu Shots Coming To An Airport Near You

Can Layover-Friendly Dental Care Be Far Behind?

Imagine being poked by a large needle in front of total strangers during your next layover at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, New York JFK or Chicago O'Hare. No, we're not talking about the latest TSA "security" initiative... particularly since this program may actually benefit travelers, for a change.

USA Today reported Thursday on a recent addition to several concourses near you: airport flu shots. For around $35 -- just slightly higher than the going rate at most doctors' offices -- travelers may receive a dose of flu vaccine, just in time for the coming winter flu season.

For travellers like Tomás Cobbs -- who recently took advantage of the program at ATL -- the new alternative is a great idea for frequent fliers afraid of contracting a nasty bug on the flying petri dish that is a commercial airliner. "This is a godsend, I didn't even have to go out of my way to do it," he said. "They should have something like this in every airport!"

Things seem to be heading in that direction. Some airports have had on-site medical clinics for years, which offered basic immunizations... but they typically didn't advertise. That changed a few years ago, when UIC Medical Center at O'Hare International set up flu shot kiosks for travelers, figuring people would pay for the convenience of getting one unpleasant necessity out of the way while experiencing a second -- airline travel.

"Last year, we gave more than 5,000 flu shots," said O'Hare's UIC Medical Center director Dr. John Zautckes. "This year, we expect to give close to 6,000 vaccinations. So it's clear that it's a good thing to do."

Similar programs soon popped up at San Francisco International, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Cleveland-Hopkins, and Memphis. Smaller airports -- like Des Moines International in Iowa -- have also set up flu shot kiosks... meaning if you travel coast-to-coast, you're almost certain to visit at least one airport offering the service.

Some airports even plan to offer free flu shots. San Diego International will offer free flu immunizations on January 16, while Sky Harbor in Phoenix will offer shots to passengers free of charge from January 26-30 for travelers, as well as to airport and airline employees.

Even at a price, convenience is the primary selling point to travelers. "It was as serendipitous as can be," said passenger Gerald Feldman, who got his flu shot in Atlanta.

Cobbs says he's open to even more layover conveniences. "Any service we can get between flights is wonderful," he said. "Getting my shoes shined. Getting my flu shot. What's next — teeth cleaning?"

FMI: www.flucliniclocator.org/

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