SOUTH TAMPA — Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco got his flu shot standing up like a comedian before an audience.
As the needle entered his arm, he joked to about 100 seniors watching and waiting for theirs in Memorial Hospital’s auditorium, saying, “What if I scream? Will everyone run out?”
Only moments earlier, Greco took on a serious tone. He told those attending the local kickoff of the Flu & You campaign more than 200,000 people are admitted to hospitals each year with the flu. “And it is fatal to many.”
He said he had never gotten a flu shot until 18 years ago when he married a physician.
“She said, ‘You will get a flu shot every year now,’” he told the attendees. He also read from a proclamation by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
The event was co-sponsored by the West Coast Area Agency on Aging as part of a national program to inform the community, especially seniors, about the risks of flu. The attendees received a gift bag with information and health product samples.
Physician Ben Mena said of those 200,000 who are hospitalized, 60 percent are 65 and older. And 90 percent of the deaths from flu complications are people 65 and older.
“A little two-second shot with a little smile may save your life,” Mena said.
Maureen Kelly of the Agency on Aging said the goal is to have 90 percent of the seniors in Hillsborough County get the shot. Currently, only about 62 percent get the vaccination.
Memorial Hospital will offer the shots free to those 55 years old with insurance or Medicare.
For information about the Flu & You campaign from the National Council on Aging, click here.