Portage County prepares for the flu


Emaan Kaiser, 6 years old, of Kent prepares for the upcoming flu season by getting a flu shot. Photo by Rachael Le Goubin.

Jackie Bergeron

The Portage County Health Department in Ravenna had a steady stream of adults and children lined up to get their flu shots on Tuesday.

Nervous children waited in anticipation but walked away smiling with a cool new sticker, even if a few tears were shed along the way. The adults walked away smiling too, with peace of mind that they could make it through the rest of winter protected from the flu.

The Portage County Health Department held two extra flu clinics this week because of an increased demand after a large flu outbreak throughout the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 2,256 people have been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed flu so far, and there’s widespread flu activity in 41 states, including Ohio.

//Change the div id to match the name of the file without the “.flv” !!

videotoPlay(‘011713_FluClinics_PKG.flv’);//Paste video filename between the quotes

function videotoPlay(file){

var video = file;

var divId = (video.split(“.”,1))[0];

var playlist = [{file: ‘rtmp://flashmedia.kent.edu/fms-jmc/tv2/’ + video }];

var ad = “TechHelpAd_11152012_600.flv”; //Paste pre-roll ad filename between the quotes

var adPlayed = false;


file: “rtmp://flashmedia.kent.edu/fms-jmc/kentWired/” + ad,

image: ‘http://www.staterinteractive.com/photos/spring11/0131tv2.jpg’,

captions: [{ file: “http://studio.jmc.kent.edu/jwplayer6/Ad.vtt”, label: “English” }],

width: ‘320’, height: ‘240’, events: {

onPlay: function(){if (adPlayed == false){jwplayer(divId).setControls(false);}},

onComplete: function(){adPlayed = true;



Watch TV2 live.

Contact Molly Devaney at [email protected].

The flu, however, is not the department’s biggest concern. Because the Portage County Health Department hasn’t passed a levy in more than 50 years, the money to hold extra flu clinics and other important services are running low.

“We have a little bit of money for additional adult vaccines,” DuWayne Porter, the Health Commissioner of Portage County said, “but once that money’s gone, it doesn’t matter if the flu keeps going.”

Each year, the health department estimates how much of the vaccine will be needed and purchases it with its budget. Though some flu clinics begin in August, the Portage County Health Department begins distributing the vaccines in October so its supply lasts until the end of the flu season.

Porter said the department doesn’t pay for children’s vaccines because they get them from the state. Pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS only immunize children 14 and older.

The Portage County Health Department, which currently operates through use of tax money, received a levy from the Portage County General Health District. Though they can afford to supply the vaccines now, they may not be able to in the future.

“It’s the same amount of money we got in 1955, and that’s the problem,” Porter said. “The population of our county has grown since 1955, and the number of programs the health department does increases every year. Many of those programs are without funding, so we either have to charge for the service or use the tax money we have. All of our programs are cut to the point we’re at minimal services.”

Despite state funding, most flu clinics charge for services. Shots for children 18 and younger cost $10, and adult shots cost $20. The health department accepts insurance but only Plan B of Medicare and Medicaid. They don’t turn people away who can’t afford shots, though the money to pay for them comes out of their already tight budget.

Porter said estimates show the additional cost for an “average citizen with a $100,000 house” would be “10 extra dollars a year” to pass the “$0.4 million replacement levy.”

“I think that if the people of Portage County would take the time to compare what services are available in other counties compared to what they’re getting here, they could see the differences and what that $10 extra a year would mean to us and to them,” Porter said.

The department wants the 0.4-mill, five-year replacement levy, Porter said. This would not mean new taxes for residents of Portage County but would bring the money from 1955 up to today’s cost of living rate.

Where to get a flu shot:

University Health Services

1500 Eastway Dr.

As of Jan. 1, the health center has a limited number of flu shots available. Those looking to get the shot should contact UHS at 330-672-2322 to schedule. The flu shot costs $20 and can be paid by cash or check. The cost is covered in full for employees and their adult dependents covered by Anthem or Medical Mutual.


500 S. Water St.

MinuteClinic hours for a flu shot at CVS are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


320 S. Water St.

Walgreens allows walk-in flu shots, or an appointment can be made online at www.walgreens.com. The pharmacy is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Christy White, of Ravenna, said she would pay the additional money a year because she sees the importance in the flu shot.

“[We got the shot] just to keep us all healthy,” White said. “[My son] is in kindergarten, and I don’t want him bringing germs home, and my husbands works with a lot of people as well so we all just decided to [get flu shots.]”

White said the county clinics are more convenient to get the flu shot because “you can just walk in, get in, get out and be done with this.”

Judee Genetin, director of Portage County Child and Family Services, also finds getting the flu shot important.

Have something to say about this year’s flu season?
Tweet about it at #KWflu.

“I was out of town when we did this before, so I didn’t get a chance to get my shot,” said Genetin, whose staff members have been out of the office with the flu. “I get it every year so the fact I haven’t gotten it yet is kind of freaking me out.”

Rebecca Lehman, a health educator at the Portage County Health Department, said about 60 percent of people who get the flu shot don’t get the flu.

“You cannot get sick from getting a flu shot,” Lehman said. “It’s not a live virus in the flu shot, similar to all childhood immunizations.”

Lehman said flu season started in October and that they aren’t surprised to see an increase in flu cases now. They were, however, surprised to see an increase in December.

Lehman said the reason some people who received the flu shot are getting sick is because the shot only targets three strains of the flu at one time. For example, the last two years, the flu shot has included strains of H1N1 to vaccinate against it.

“The problem with this season is they missed the mark just a little bit,” Lehman said. “There’s two other strains that are coming out that people are testing positive for. They’re still testing positive for the strains in the shot, but there’s some coming up that they just weren’t ready for.”

“We all know that the H1N1 was a pandemic, and it really hit,” Lehman said. “I hope it doesn’t get like that for this one.”

Contact Jackie Bergeron at [email protected].