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MMH offering flu vaccine to those affiliated with facility

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MASSENA — Anyone who has a formal affiliation with Massena Memorial Hospital and does not get a flu shot this year will be required to wear a mask when at the facility.

“If they refuse for some health reason and cannot take the vaccine, any employee, board member, auxilian or anybody who has a formal affiliation with the hospital” must wear a mask, CEO Charles F. Fahd II told members of the hospital’s board of managers this week.

The move was mandated by new rules adopted by the state Department of Health this year that require all health care workers — volunteers included — at hospitals, nursing homes and other health care agencies to either get a flu shot or wear a mask when working with patients.

State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah said, “This regulation will enable health care workers to meet their obligation to do no harm to patients” and will protect workers, as well.

Mr. Fahd invited board members to take advantage of the flu clinics being offered at the hospital. One clinic was held this week, and others will be held Oct. 3, 15 and 16.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that, although the timing of flu can vary from season to season, it can begin in early October and commonly peaks in January or February. The agency recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.

Employees who receive the flu vaccine will have a dot placed on their name badge, according to the hospital CEO.

While the hospital is taking precautions with those affiliated with the facility, Mr. Fahd said, visitors will not be affected. He said the state health commissioner advised against going so far as to require vaccination of the visiting public.

Rebecca J. Faber, spokeswoman for Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam, said her hospital also is abiding by the regulation, but it’s nothing new for the facility.

“We have seasonal flu vaccine clinics every season. We offer the vaccine to all employees and volunteers. This year it’s mandated,” she said. The vaccine changes to account for the different strains of the flu every year, she said.

Those who are particularly vulnerable to the flu are children under 2 years of age, although the elderly also are susceptible. The best way to protect themselves and others from the flu is to receive the flu shot and practice good hand hygiene.

Besides the flu clinics at Massena Memorial and Canton-Potsdam hospitals, the St. Lawrence County Health Department also has scheduled clinics during October. Appointments are appreciated, but not required by calling 386-2325.

The clinics will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Canton Human Services Center; 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 7 at Cambray Courts, Gouverneur; 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Massena Community Center; 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 8 at Riverview Towers in Ogdensburg; 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 21 at New Home Community Church, Potsdam; and 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Canton Human Services Center. Pneumonia shots also will be available.

The cost is $30 for flu shots and $75 for pneumonia shots, and the department will bill Medicare for flu and pneumonia vaccinations. Medicare recipients must bring their Medicare card with them to the clinics.

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