HealthMap Vaccine Finder Helps People Find the Flu Vaccine in Their Area
Sep 27, 2012 - 11:45:39 AM
(HealthNewsDigest.com) - BOSTON, Sept. 27, 2012 -- Flu season is just around the corner, which means it's time to get the annual seasonal flu shot. Boston Children's Hospital has launched a website to make it as easy as possible for people to find the flu vaccine.
Called the HealthMapVaccineFinder the website is like Google Maps for the flu vaccine. By visiting flushot.healthmap.org and typing in a street address and/or zip code, people can find out where in their area the vaccine is being offered. For each location, the site also provides information on:
-- What kinds of the vaccine are being offered (shot, intradermal shot,
high-dose shot or nasal spray)
-- Address and phone number
-- Hours of operation
-- Vaccine cost
-- Whether insurance is accepted
-- Age requirements
-- Driving directions
The site contains information from more than 50,000 locations across the United States. Later this year the HealthMap team will expand the Vaccine Finder to also include an additional 10 adult vaccines (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, HPV, MMR, meningococcal, pneumococcal, Td, Tdap, varicella and zoster).
The HealthMap Vaccine Finder's origins lay in the Google Flu Vaccine Finder, originally launched in 2009. In 2011, Google turned the reins over John Brownstein, PhD, co-founder of HealthMap (a real-time intelligence resource on a broad range of emerging infectious diseases) and director of the Computational Epidemiology Group within Boston Children's Informatics Program (CHIP).
Brownstein's team worked with advocacy and professional organizations, federal agencies, health departments, and clinics and pharmacies to expand the data available on the site. They then worked to promote it through Flu.gov, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) online clearinghouse for seasonal, H1N1 (swine), H5N1 (bird), H3N2 and pandemic flu information. Flu.gov also has made a widget that makes it easy to add the Vaccine Finder to any website.
"People sometimes have a hard time deciding where to get a flu shot because there are many factors involved in the decision," said Brownstein. "We've been working with several agencies, groups and companies to pull all information on location, price and vaccine type together into one place for consumers. We hope it helps encourage more people to get the shot."
Influenza kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. Annual vaccination is crucial to keep seasonal influenza at bay, as the influenza virus subtly mutates every year to make earlier seasons' vaccines ineffective. Brownstein's team released studies in 2005 and 2011 documenting the population-wide benefits of vaccinating preschool-aged children in particular against the flu.
"Getting a flu vaccine every year is the best way to prevent influenza, which is a serious disease that can result in hospitalization or death, especially for young children or people with underlying health conditions," says Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, an infection control expert and epidemiologist at Boston Children's. "Flu is very contagious and can be spread from one person to another even before symptoms develop, so having a high proportion of people vaccinated is important to help limit transmission of the virus during flu season."
"Every year in the U.S. more than 200,000 people may be hospitalized for flu-related complications--including 20,000 children under the age of 5," according to Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, assistant secretary for health at the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Simply put, vaccination is the best protection we have against the flu. A flu vaccine can reduce your risk of illness, hospitalization, or even death--and can prevent you from spreading the virus to your families, friends and coworkers."
The HealthMap Vaccine Finder was developed in consultation with HHS, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Pharmacists Association, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the Immunization Action Coalition, the American Medical Association, the National Influenza Vaccine Summit, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials. Data on vaccine availability have been provided by CVS, Rite-Aid, Target and Walgreens, as well as hundreds of individual pharmacies, clinics and state/local health departments.
Boston Children's Hospital is home to the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since 1869. More than 1,100 scientists, including nine members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and nine members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Boston Children's research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Boston Children's today is a 395 bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care grounded in the values of excellence in patient care and sensitivity to the complex needs and diversity of children and families. Boston Children's also is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. For more information about research and clinical innovation at Boston Children's, visit: http://vectorblog.org/.
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