Looking for the flu shot? We have you covered

child-sick-with-fluThe season is upon us again. No, not fall or football or holiday—I’m talking about flu season, and all the sneezing, aches and pains that come along with it.

Clearly, getting the flu shot is a good idea, especially for families with young children. “Influenza is a serious illness—up to 50,000 people die from the flu every year in the United States,” says Thomas Sandora, MD, MPH, an infection control expert and epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Getting a flu vaccine is still the best way we have to prevent infection with influenza. Everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated every year.”

But one of the questions that at least my family asks every year is, where can we get the shot? After all, we have more options now than ever. The corner drugstore? Our doctor’s office? Our neighborhood’s health clinic? And which version of the flu vaccine is the right one for me or my child?

We’re not alone, and a tool offered by Boston Children’s Hospital’s HealthMap team can help. Called the HealthMap Vaccine Finder, it’s like a Google Maps for tracking down the flu vaccine. Visit it from your computer, smartphone or tablet, plug in your address and city or zip code, and it pulls up a map listing pharmacies, clinics, etc. in your area offering the vaccine.

Apart from basic information like address, hours and phone number for each location, the tool can also tell you which of the seven versions of the flu vaccine they offer. On top of that, there is a function to help you figure out which version is appropriate for you. (The site also has information on the 10 vaccines currently recommended for adults—hepatitis A & B, HPV, MMR, shingles, Td/Tdap, meningococcal, pneumococcal and varicella).

child-flu-shot-300x199And if you check the “Show related HealthMap alerts” box, you can even find alerts about vaccine-preventable diseases near you.

“Immunizations are of course a major part of disease prevention; however, coverage rates are nowhere near where they should be,” says John Brownstein, PhD, who leads the HealthMap team and who previously showed how getting the shot really can make a difference. “There are many reasons why the general public might choose to not get immunized, but we’ve found that convenience is a big part of it. We think making information available on the Web that promotes access to life-saving vaccine could improve coverage.”

You can use the finder by visiting vaccinefinder.org or flu.gov.

And webmasters and bloggers: Help your readers and users get vaccinated by putting this Vaccine Finder widget on your website!