Googling for flu vaccines
Defending your computer against viruses is easy compared to defending yourself against the H1N1 flu virus, but Google has some help for you.
When I went to the doctor's office recently, I assumed I'd be getting my seasonal flu shot, and I'd hoped that I might get an H1N1, swine-flu, shot. I was wrong. It turns out that because of shortages, doctor offices aren't being supplied with flu vaccines. Worse still, they didn't know where I could get the shots. Fortunately, Google, yes Google, can help.
While Google has no computer anti-virus programs-well, not yet anyway-they've just released an add-on to Google Maps, Flu-Shot Finder. Just visit the site, put in your location-a zip code will work nicely-and you'll soon get a map of the area with drugstores and pharmacies that carry the shots.
That's the good news. The bad news is that many of these stores and health departments are also out of the vaccines. To the site's credit though it marks those as well so you won't waste time going to them. But, as Google notes on the maps, you should "call ahead to confirm availability, as flu shot supply changes regularly."
The site's information is drawn from data provided by the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, the CDC (Center for Disease Control), their flu.gov collaborators and the American Lung Association. It's still coming together. It only covers 20 states at this time and it doesn't cover everyone who carries the vaccine.
According to a Google blog posting by Dr. Roni Zeiger, M.D., the project manager and Jennifer Haroon, its marketing manager, "At the moment we have data for locations of flu vaccine directly from 20 states and counting. We are also continuing to add information from chain pharmacies and other providers in all 50 states; today, you'll find results from chains such as Walgreens, CVS and PDX participants, such as Kmart, Duane Reade, WinnDixie and Giant Eagle."
Still, this brand-new Google project did better than my doctor's office, where they really have no clue at all as to where I could find either of the vaccines. Google and its partners are working hard on expanding its coverage, and I have little doubt that the site will soon prove very useful no matter where you live in the United States.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go out and get a flu shot.