State Offers Free Flu Vaccines

The administrative fee for vaccines through the state’s public health system is being waived in an effort to get more low income people protected from flu this season.

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Rhonda Richmeier, the chief of Public Health Nursing for the state, says the free vaccines are being offered because there are already been a number of hospitalizations from flu this year.

“We’re concerned, we don’t know for sure yet, but we are concerned that this may be an earlier and more severe flu season and because of that, we really want to make sure we’re making it as easy as possible for all Alaskans to get their flu vaccine,” she said.

Richmeier says the free vaccines will be available at any public health center around the state to anyone eligible for state purchased vaccine. That’s anyone under the age of three.

“For anyone age three and older, we can only vaccinate people at our state Public Health centers if they do not have health insurance or they have a health insurance that doesn’t cover vaccines or they are uninsured, underinsured,” Richmeier said.

The free vaccines will be offered until the end of December. It takes 10 days after the shot to get full protection from the flu.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori