Ice skating event entices people to get flu shots

EVERETT — The lure of a free skate on the very ice the Everett Silvertips use was all the incentive Sebastiaan Kittel needed to roll up his sleeve for a flu shot.

The same was true for plenty of other adults and kids Saturday.

It was the second straight year the 11-year-old Everett boy showed up with his dad for a free flu vaccination and the chance to skate.

Several agencies and volunteer groups worked together to put on the event, including Comcast Arena, the Snohomish Health District, the Mukilteo-South Everett Rotary Club, Walgreens, the state Department of Health and the Medical Reserve Corps of Snohomish County.

“He has been excited all week to skate on the ice where the Silvertips skate,” Sebastiaan’s dad, Randy Kittel, said. “It makes it a lot easier to convince him to go. There is a real incentive at the end, not just a cookie.”

Randy Kittel, who also got a shot, said he noticed last winter that Sebastiaan experienced less illness and missed fewer days of school than in the past when he hadn’t been vaccinated.

Flu season has arrived. A Bothell woman in her 30s died Jan. 4 from influenza complications, becoming the county’s first flu fatality this year.

“This next few months could be a rough start to 2014 for people who do not protect themselves from the flu,” said Nancy Furness, director of the health district’s Communicable Disease Division. Last year, seven people from Snohomish County died of influenza-related illness.

A flu shot every year is recommended for people age 6 months and older. Different strains of flu circulate each year, according to the health district. So far this year, the most common flu virus has been H1N1, the “swine flu” that hit young adults and children hard in 2009. This year’s flu vaccine includes H1N1, substantially reducing the chances of getting it.

“These people are getting to skate and to protect themselves,” said Rita Mell, a Snohomish Health District registered nurse and clinic manager. “A little pain is a great gain for protection.”

The Mukilteo-South Everett Rotary Club took on vaccinations as a service project, making it a priority to provide flu and whooping cough shots to uninsured and low-income adults in Snohomish County. Health workers also had vaccinations available for other diseases on Saturday.

The Rotary found receptive partners in the health district, Comcast and others, said Sheila Countryman-Bean, a member of the Mukilteo-South Everett club.

“We just saw the need,” she said.

Countryman-Bean also saw a need to make sure there was a big screen TV for families to watch the Seahawks game while they were waiting for shots and to skate.

Carissa Saavedra of Lynnwood showed up Saturday with the goal of protecting three generations of her family from the flu. She, her daughter, Cailee, 7, and Cailee’s grandmother, Lisa Greve, took turns.

Cailee stoically closed her eyes, but reported afterward: “It didn’t hurt.”

Saavedra said she was impressed by how smoothly the event went.

She’s still not done trying to protect her family.

“We have to get Daddy in next,” she said. “He’s working today. He’s excused for now, but he is not excused from getting the shot.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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