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2013 flu shots

Ready to get their flu shots

To start this off, I am NOT against military clinics. I know many people immediately start looking for the bad when going to a military clinic or automatically assume the doctors aren't as good or whatever. We have used three military treatment facilities (MTF) so far in my husband's naval career and two civilian providers, this being our third MTF. I knew what to expect heading back to the MTF. Before moving here, I was very nervous about moving our asthmatic toddler from our last pediatrician's office. They were wonderful there and knew his whole history, what his triggers are, what medicines he's been on, etc. They took excellent care of our boys there, especially O, and I was nervous to move right before cold and flu season. (Read "Reactive airways.")

When I walked into the clinic here in South Carolina, I was impressed. It seriously looks like a mini Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. I have been seen quickly both times I went to the clinic, no long wait times. The pharmacy moves right along and they have a drive up window. The staff is great. The lab is quick. They even have an email service that I've used several times. I have sent my doctor emails that reach her nursing staff. They have replied to my messages promptly, within 30-40 minutes or first thing the next morning if I sent one at the end of business day.


It is October 23rd and they still do not have flu vaccines available to dependents.

There are posters all over the clinic advertising the importance of getting a flu vaccine and they still have no definite date on when flu shots will be available to dependents. My PCM even told me, "They say next week, but they've told us 'next week' every week." So I asked her, "Can we get a referral or prescription and go out in town?" She kind of beat around the bush in the office and I didn't have a place I knew we should go, so I didn't press the issue. She did emphasize before I left how important it is for me to get O his flu shot since his asthma and medical history puts him in a high risk category.

On top of this, South Carolina seems to have very strange laws regarding vaccines for minors. No child under the age of 6 (the age I heard most consistently from pharmacists) can get a vaccine without a prescription from their doctor, meaning no walk-in flu shots. I called Walgreen's, Rite Aid, Target, and local urgent cares. Consistently, we were denied flu shots for our two and a half year olds, some said they would be willing to give our five-year old his flu shot. I even offered to pay out of pocket since flu shots are, what, $15 or $20? No, flu shots are $31.99 (times three, since we have three boys), but even paying out of pocket, they still would not give our toddlers the flu shot.

I found a nearby CVS and asked the pharmacist what I had to do to get our boys, including the toddlers, a flu shot there. She said, "Oh, just have your doctor send over a prescription and we can give it to them no problem. We accept Tricare Prime." I went home and messaged my doctor. She sent me back a message this morning denying my request. She told me to take them to the Health Department.

I ended up having to post a thread in a wives group where someone tipped me off about CVS's Minute Clinics. I found our closest Minute Clinic (a little over half an hour away) and we all drove over there this morning. Here is the link to the Humana website with the Minute Clinic information: "Convenient Care May Still Need a Referral." I called Minute Clinic (link to their website: Minute Clinic) and got specific information about the clinic I was going to take the boys too, confirming that they would accept Tricare Prime, that they would administer the vaccine to two and a half year olds, and that they did have children's flu shots in stock. My husband, being active duty, was already given his flu shot by the Navy and, finding this to be quite the ordeal, I had already gone to Target for my flu shot the week before.

The Minute Clinic has a highly irritating automated answering system. When I finally reached a representative, I was feeling frustrated by this whole process. The guy on the phone was really nice and very helpful. I actually hung up smiling, glad to finally have somewhere to get their flu shots. The woman at the Minute Clinic was an angel, seriously. She was so sweet to our screaming two-year olds and actually managed to give our five-year old his shot without him bursting into tears (he has a fear of shots right now). Getting there was challenging, but CVS made the process as painless as possible. We even got a 20% coupon that we used to buy the boys candy for being so brave. Even our cashier was sweet, telling the boys how good they were.

I am really irritated with how our flu shots were handled at the MTF. I feel like they have basically thrown their hands in the air and said, "Oops! We don't have them yet! Gotta wait!" Come to find out, most of our neighbors do not have their flu shots yet. I've heard from several people that they find this process so irritating that they don't get them anymore. I have never had this experience with Tricare, at a different MTF, Prime, or Prime Remote. I even asked our doctor if there was an exception for high-risk patients to get their flu shots (me and O) and she said no.

I'm still give the MTF a chance. I'm switching PCM's, at least for the kids, and seeing if there is a different doctor that we connect with more. Right now, I'm just glad that our whole family has their flu shots!

Here is a link to the immunizations page of the health department, by state: "State Health Department Immunizations Websites."
(Without insurance, flu shots are $25 at the Health Department in South Carolina.)
Here is a link to an article I really liked about being pro-vaccine: "I'm Coming Out... as Pro-Vaccine."
My blog post on "RSV and premature babies," outlining O's 4-day stay in the PICU with RSV.
My blog post about the "2012-2013 RSV season," when O got the Synagis vaccine.


Glad to hear that your entire family got their flu vaccines already, and that you didn't give up after all the "next week" promises and endless search. Clinics have their own rules and regulations for a reason: they just want to be extra careful giving flu shots to babies or elderlies, since they happen to be most sensitive to medications. All you can do is to find a clinic that administers flu shots for all ages. You did your part as a responsible parent, and I admire you for that.

-Louisa Coppinger @ USHealthWorks (Kent-Center)

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