Cheap flu shots for the uninsured

Posted: November 8, 2012 in Living
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By Eric Louie

I was in college the first time I got a flu vaccine. It was the late 1990s and I saw an ad on an SF State bulletin board for experimental study volunteers using a nasal spray. Besides getting a free flu shot, it also paid $10.

I went to a downtown office building off Van Ness Avenue where I learned such sprays had to be shipped fresh. That was harder and more expensive to transport. The trial was to see if a frozen form could work. I was a little let down when I heard a placebo could be used, but almost immediately my nose was drippy and my eyes watering. I got home on the bus and felt really bad that night. The next day I was good.

Since then I’ve made it a point to get a flu shot each year. Funny enough, they never hit as hard as that first one. After graduating and getting a job I had health insurance. Kaiser Permanente had clinics where people lined up in the lobby and paid something like $10. There were also drop-in times. Eventually they were just given. There were even clinics set up at my job. Even though I was in a satellite office, the Bay Area News Group would have a day for shots across its various Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times properties.

This year, due to being laid off, I called the Alameda County Public Health Department. They have a listing on their Web site of where and when you can get them, with those that mention a price being between $3 and $5. Some are for children only. Some have specific time and days listed, while others have a wider range. It also says no one will be turned away for a lack of funds.

I suggest both looking up the list, calling the health department and calling the place you plan to go to. I called one on the list and it turned out I had to be one of their behavioral services patients. They asked if I had a psychiatrist with them.

I called the health department on a Monday and they told me about possibilities Wednesday in Oakland and Hayward. I didn’t write it down because I wasn’t sure if I’d be around. But when I called that day a different guy said the next one was Thursday. He said the Wednesday ones were just for babies.

Since I wanted to just take care of it, I ended up going down the list, saw one open and called it directly. It was in Oakland Chinatown with a doctor who is the third owner of a practice that has long served the neighborhood. When I asked for a card he had to remember where they were, saying he hadn’t taken new patients since the mid-1990s. It was $2 if you are uninsured.

There’s different opinions on getting a flu shot, and I know others who don’t get one. Though I’d recover, I don’t like getting sick. I also don’t have sick days from a job anymore, so if I missed some work it would be on me. If you are looking, here’s some links to some local public health departments. Maybe there’s something similar in your area.

Alameda County Public Health Department

http://www.acphd.org/media/272189/flu_clinics.pdf

Contra Costa Health Services

http://cchealth.org/immunization/clinics.php

San Francisco Department of Public Health

http://www.sfdph.org. I called and they said to contact the clinics in each neighborhood directly.

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