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It’s not too late to protect yourself against flu

By scanning patient IDs, MIT Medical staff quickly entered flu shot information and kept the lines moving fast.
By scanning patient IDs, MIT Medical staff quickly entered flu shot information and kept the lines moving fast.
Photo: Kim Schive

With roughly 8,200 flu shots administered during two walk-in clinics on campus and another 1,730 people vaccinated at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, the Institute community is exceptionally well prepared for flu season, says MIT Medical's associate medical director Howard Heller, who is an infectious disease specialist.

But if you missed those clinics, it’s not too late to get vaccinated, he says: “We’re still giving flu shots, and we have plenty of vaccine in stock."

Flu shots are available at no charge for all MIT students, staff, affiliates, and retirees, as well as for family members who have primary care providers at MIT Medical. To schedule an appointment for a shot in Cambridge, call 617-253-4865; to schedule an appointment in Lexington, call 781-981-7080.

While getting a flu shot can help you avoid this year’s flu strains, it can take up to two weeks to build immunity following the shot, and no vaccine is 100 percent effective, Heller notes. "[W]e can also expect the usual colds and other viruses to show up this winter," he adds. "But we can all take extra precautions to avoid getting sick or spreading illnesses.”

Such precautions include washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with your upper sleeve or a tissue; keeping hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth; frequently cleaning surfaces that are touched by many people; and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

Heller encourages anyone who becomes ill with flu-like symptoms — fever, congestion, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue — to stay home from work or classes and call their primary care provider or MIT’s 24-hour helpline at 617-253-4481. MIT Medical’s walk-in Urgent Care Service, on the first floor of Building E23, is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. All benefits-eligible employees may use Urgent Care. For pediatric patients, please call ahead to find out if a pediatric clinician is available.

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