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Senator, Hospital Partner to Help Elderly Fight Flu

January 11, 2007 By:
Sally Friedman, JF Feature
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It's common knowledge that influenza -- the flu -- wreaks havoc on younger and middle-aged bodies. On older ones, it can be deadly.

We also now know that flu shots can be the most important weapon against the flu, the one thing that can offer some protection. So when it became known that the city of Philadelphia's Health Department was no longer sponsoring the administration of flu shots on site to the residents of Federation Housing, as had been the case in former years, a true crisis might have erupted.

Launched back in 1970, Federation Housing, Inc., provides subsidized apartments to over 1,400 senior citizens at four locations in Northeast Philadelphia. Meeting the social, emotional and physical needs of the elderly is at the core of the agency's mission.

When it comes to health, the frail elderly are, of course, the most susceptible candidates for influenza -- and the least able to reach flu clinics and distribution centers. The contract between the city and the Visiting Nurses Association of Philadelphia was discontinued, with all vaccines going directly to doctors' offices and health clinics this year.

That's when a partnership between the office of Senator Mike Stack of the 5th Senatorial District and Albert Einstein Medical Center was created to save the day. In an inoculation campaign last month that could ultimately make the difference between life and death for frail elderly residents of Federation senior housing, the two joined for the good of those who most needed protection.

"We re so grateful to Einstein for stepping up to the plate to help our most vulnerable citizens, and to Senator Stack for caring enough to get personally involved in this effort," said Robin Schatz, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Jewish Federation. "The quick action they took was a testament to their caring for our residents."

In a massive effort to inoculate the 80 residents of five Federation housing sites in Northeast Philadelphia who could not possibly get to the public centers or their doctors' offices, Senator Stack reached out to Einstein as a first line of defense, seeking the two vital V's -- vaccinations and volunteers.

"I'm extremely grateful to everyone at Einstein, especially the volunteers and CEO Barry Friedman," said Senator Stack. "Federation Housing provides a wonderful service to Northeast Philadelphia, and it was important to help out because we recognize how much the residents count on those inoculations. I felt a responsibility to step in."

"We were thrilled to partner with Senator Stack on this program," said Alexis Moore, communications director for Einstein. "Our institution derives its values and fundamental strengths from our Jewish roots, and 'being community' is at the core of Jewish responsibility," said Moore. "Providing those homebound seniors with flu shots was right in tune with our roots and our mission."

For Eric Naftulin, executive vice president of Federation Housing, the intervention of Senator Stack and Einstein helped avert a crisis at the Saligman House, Federation Apartments, Rieder-Tabas House, Goldstein's and Sidewater Complex.

Naftulin and Susan Itkis, also of Federation Housing, particularly praised Einstein nurse Jean Albany, for keeping the inoculation program running smoothly, and for its being completed within a week.

"This was a win-win situation for everyone involved," said Robin Schatz of Federation. "The willingness of Senator Stack's office and Einstein to do what needed to be done quickly and efficiently is a terrific example of solving a problem -- and doing a mitzvah."
 

Flu Facts

· On average in the United States each year: five to 20 percent of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; and about 36,000 people die from the flu.

· The "flu shot, which is given with a needle, usually in the arm, is an inactivated (or killed) vaccine.

· Scientists make different flu vaccines every year because the strains of influenza viruses change from year to year. Nine to 10 months before the flu season begins, they prepare a new vaccine made from inactivated (killed) influenza viruses.

· Because the viruses have been killed, they cannot cause infection. The flu vaccine preparation is based on the strains of the flu viruses that are in circulation at the time. It includes those influenza type A and influenza type B viruses expected to circulate the following winter. -- From www.FluFacts.com


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