Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Throughout October, Visiting Nurses Association of Care New England will host flu vaccine clinics in Rhode Island. As flu season approaches, the VNA will administer flu shots at six locations across the state. 

VNA nurse Paula Foster encourages all who want to be vaccinated to come; regardless of their insurance status.

“The state has allotted us a certain amount of vaccine for the uninsured," said Foster. "So nobody will be turned away, and we want to make sure that everybody that wants a flu shot is getting a flu shot.”

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Pun intended.

It's National Influenza Vaccination Week (according to the CDC), which I read as yet one more way to snap us out of complacency and into a clinic for a flu shot.

But it seems no amount of exhortation will move some people closer to the needle (or nasal spray).

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

That depends on your priorities. But first, here's what's at issue:

Rhode Island Department of Health

While flu season is technically still here, Rhode Island’s Department of Health has lifted its declaration of “widespread” flu. More on the state’s response to a tough season.

Department of health head Dr. Michael Fine says he’s pleased that more health care workers and members of the general population got vaccinated against the flu this year than last. But he says the state can do better than 50%.

“If we had vaccinated instead of 500,000 Rhode Islanders, 900,000 or more, we would have expected to see many fewer hospitalizations and many fewer illnesses.”

If you've got the flu, it's bad. Awfully bad. But is this season any worse than unusual? Are hospitals really being overwhelmed by "skyrocketing" cases in an unprecedented outbreak?

UPDATE: As of today, October 5, 2012, the Rhode Island Department of Health has issued a ruling that it will mandate flu vaccines for all health care workers and volunteers. You can get a medical exemption with a note from your doctor, or fill out a form saying you refuse to get the shot but understand you’ll have to wear a surgical mask when interacting with patients during flu season. Link to the state regulation (it’s a .pdf).