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L.A. taxicab drivers to receive free H1N1 flu shots

January 5, 2010 |  8:44 am
Free H1N1 flu shots will be offered to the 3,700 taxicab drivers licensed through the city of Los Angeles, beginning today through Thursday.

Nine franchised taxicab companies have banded together to provide the vaccinations and ensure their drivers remain flu-free.

“The reason we’re doing this for all of our drivers is -- for lack of a better word -- they are on the front line,” said Michael Calin, general manager of Bell Cab. “Taxicab drivers are in constant contact with the public at large, and we feel this is an important service for our drivers and for the customers they serve.

“This is for their protection and for the protection of the public.”

Managers of the different cab companies began meeting about four months ago to figure out how to address the ongoing spread of the H1N1 virus, commonly called swine flu, and began organizing vaccinations for all their drivers. The companies will split the costs of the shots, which are $10 per vaccinated driver.

The shots will be given on a voluntary basis.

“In a perfect world, all of them would get it,” Calin said.

H1N1 hospitalizations hit an all-time high in California around Thanksgiving, when nearly 800 people fell ill, state officials said. It was the largest one-week total of hospitalizations since flu cases began escalating last fall.

Health experts have said there could be a second wave of cases in coming months. In 2009, more than 7,000 Californians were hospitalized because of the H1N1 flu. More than 360 people have died in the state from the strain.

Cab drivers can receive their vacations at LAX’s taxicab holding lot from noon to 3 p.m. today through Thursday. Vaccines are for licensed taxi drivers only. Flu shots will not be provided to other airport employees or the general public.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy