For Debbie Comes, finance manager for Greteman Group, the quest to fight the flu this year has required more work.
In the past, Greteman Group was able to have the Sedgwick County Health Department bring flu shots to the workplace, allowing employees to get their shots in a conference room through their insurance.
“The thing is, we’ve been quite spoiled here because the health department has come in for several years for flu shots and our office manager gets it all set up,” Comes said.
But with budget cuts and the widespread availability of flu shots at other locations, the health department no longer provides the service.
So Comes scheduled an appointment at a local Walgreens and was told right before receiving the shot that it would cost her $53.
“I was asked, ‘Will that be all right?’ I was a bit taken aback. ‘I’m not sure that is all right, I’ve gotten the shot several years and did not have to pay anything.’ ”
Comes canceled the appointment and checked with her insurance company, which said it would cover the shot. But not all pharmacies in town will accept insurance for vaccinations, so she was told to check ahead of time which pharmacies will offer free shots and which ones will accept her insurance. Comes found out that the Walgreens she had visited was not a Take Care Clinic, so it did not accept her insurance for vaccinations.
Comes’ experience is a reminder to those wanting ward off the flu to check their insurance coverage before paying out of pocket.
For the uninsured, the Sedgwick County Health Department will offer flu shots at its clinic at 2716 W. Central this year. The shots are free to uninsured adults over age 19 and will be provided to uninsured children and children with Medicaid, Children’s Mercy or UniCare on a sliding fee scale.
The health department, which started with 500 flu shots on Oct. 1 on a first come, first-served basis, is down to about 400. Last year, it provided about 1,000 flu shots.
Manufacturers have projected they will produce between 146 million and 149 million doses of flu vaccine, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. During 2011-2012, 132.8 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed in the U.S.
KDHE encourages nearly everyone six months and older to get the flu vaccine, even if they were vaccinated last year. It takes up to two weeks after the vaccination to develop the antibodies that protect from the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend two types of vaccinations: a nasal spray vaccine of live but weakened virus for those between 2 and 49 and not pregnant, or injected vaccines of dead virus that come in different strengths depending on a person’s age.
Comes still hasn’t gotten her shot, but said she encourages people to do a little research before they fork over cash.
“I’d have to say get to know your insurance coverage and if it’s something you haven’t paid for before and all of a sudden you’re having to pay for it …
“Don’t be intimidated if someone tells you you have to pay,” Comes said. “Don’t give up.”