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Seniors get flu shots, but not the flu

Nancy Ludwig grins and bears it at the Lake George health assessment clinic this week. Dozens of people came in for seasonal flu shots. Vaccines are running out. A second clinic will be held in Nevis Nov. 9. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Hubbard County seniors routinely get annual flu shots, but they seem blasé about contracting the H1N1 virus.

"I've been exposed to just about everything," is how 87-year-old Clayton Severtson sums it up. "I had six brothers. If one came down with something, we usually all ended up getting it when we were kids."

Severtson gets a seasonal flu shot every year, but doubts he will get the H1N1 vaccine if and when it becomes available.

"I think it will help the younger kids more than the people in wheelchairs," he said.

The Lake George health assessment clinic Wednesday afternoon was doing a brisk business in flu shots, though.

"We had a couple come all the way from from Verndale because they weren't able to get the shots there," said St. Joseph's Area Health Services nurse Tracey Skadberg. "Some were waiting an hour early to get them (flu shots) in."

Gerald Harvey came to get his vaccine. "I've never had the flu," he said. That seemed to be a testimonial to the shot's effectiveness. Most of the seniors getting vaccines said they have never had flu or flu-like symptoms since they began getting shots.

Harvey also joked about H1N1. "Naah, I'm not going to get it," he said. "I haven't been to Mexico," where the virus was first detected earlier this year.

Mike Winter, a seasonal Beauty Lake resident from Deer Lake, was perhaps the only vaccine recipient to report illness.

"I had some type of flu a month ago and got pretty sick with it," he admitted. "It was going through work pretty well." Winter works at the Monticello power plant.

"I've never had the flu and I'm not worried about H1N1," said Lake Alice resident Nancy Ludwig. A retired social worker, she said she'd been exposed to a variety of ailments through home visits during her career.

She thanked the St. Joseph's staff for keeping the price of the shots low. "For $20 you get a good bang for the buck."

The hospital bills Medicare for most shots if the recipient is on the government health plan.

"In the old days they nailed a sign on your door and you weren't allowed to go out and mix with people," Severtson said. "The old doctors would come out and nail a sign to your door" whether for influenza, chicken pox or other ailments.

The community health staff will be in Nevis Nov. 9 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the senior center, administering more vaccines.

Skadberg said H1N1 vaccines will be scheduled at flu clinics when the community health department gets the vaccines, likely in November.

Meanwhile community health director Chris Broeker said seasonal flu vaccines are becoming very scarce.

"There's very little seasonal vaccine in the county right now," she said. "We're expecting to get some more but it's hard to tell when that will be. We're getting down to the end and trying to get it into all the people we can."