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Wednesday, November 25,2009

Airport offers swine flu shots on holiday weekend

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

CHICAGO — As they battle the holiday crowds this weekend, frazzled travelers at Chicago airports also will have the option of stopping to get protection against the swine flu virus.

O'Hare International Airport began offering H1N1 flu vaccines in nasal mist form this week at a clinic run by the University of Illinois-Chicago. City officials say they also hope to receive arm-shot vaccines this week, and plan to open kiosks to administer the vaccine at both O'Hare and Midway this weekend.

"We feel that it is a good amenity and service for travelers passing through the airport as well as the employees working at the airport," said Gregg Cunningham, a spokesman for the Department of Aviation.

City officials said the UIC clinic at O'Hare now has several hundred doses of the nasal mist. They would not specify how many more doses of the hard-to-find vaccine the clinic had ordered, or how many were expected this week.

"There should be a sufficient supply to get through the Thanksgiving holiday travel period," said Karen Pride, director of media relations for the Department of Aviation and a spokeswoman for both airports.

As with clinics across the country, the airport-provided vaccines will not be available to everyone, according to the Department of Aviation. The airports will only be giving inoculations to ticketed passengers and airport employees who fall into the federally-defined at-risk categories.

That includes health care workers, pregnant women, individuals between six months and 24 years of age, caregivers of children under the age of six months, and people age 25 to 64 with underlying medical conditions. The nasal mist version of the vaccine is given only to healthy, non-pregnant individuals age 2 to 49.

The UIC clinic at O'Hare is currently offering the nasal mist to qualified individuals at its facility in Terminal 2, according to Pride. They plan to offer the medication starting Sunday in at least two kiosks, one in Terminal 1 and the other in Terminal 3.

Midway could begin offering the vaccine as early as Saturday in a kiosk at its concession triangle, Pride said.

Midway expects about 72,000 travelers on Sunday and O'Hare more than 200,000 on Monday — their busiest days of the holiday, Cunningham said.

The airports plan to make the vaccine available between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Pride said. The H1N1 mist costs $25 at O'Hare. The clinic also offers seasonal flu shots for $35 each.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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