Flu season is upon us, and experts advise that the time to get a flu shot is now. One clinic in Maryland is making that easier than ever with a "Drive-Thru Flu Clinic."
Since it opened earlier this month, the Kaiser Permanente clinic in Rockville has given 2,200 flu shots. It is doing so well, the staff is adding additional "commuter" hours from 7 to 9 a.m. for people who want to get vaccinated on the way to work.
Patients are given a consent form and information sheet when they pull up. After signing, they roll down their car window, roll up their sleeve and a registered nurse administers the shot.
"They never even have to get out of the car," said Dr. Lauren Cosgrove, of the Kaiser Permanente clinic.
The drive-thru saves about 15 to 20 minutes.
Anyone over the age of 12 who has previously received a flu shot with no adverse effects is eligible.
"First, some people think it won't happen to you so you don't need a flu shot -- that's a myth," Cosgrove said. "Even if you're not a high-risk patient, no one is immune. Second, people think the flu shot will make them sick. It won't. The only reason not to get a flu shot is if you've had an adverse reaction to a flu shot in the past or if you're allergic to eggs because flu shots are cultured from eggs."
Flu season runs from October through March, often peaking in February. Each year, between 5 percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population will come down with the flu, leading to 36,000 flu-related deaths and 200,000 flu-related hospitalizations. The more Americans get their flu shots, the more those numbers go down.
While there was a flu shot shortage last year, there is plenty to go around this year with 75 million doses of influenza vaccine in the United States.
High-risk patients should go to the front of the line when it comes to flu shots. That includes:
Anyone over 65
Babies between 6 and 24 months
Anyone who is immuno-depressed: cancer patients, those with diabetes, heart disease, asthma or HIV
Pregnant women who will be in their 2nd or 3rd trimester during flu season (October through March)