Get a fried Oreo at the state fair — and your yearly vaccine

In the midst of the food, pig races and rides that comprise the North Carolina State Fair, two beacons of health stand — the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy flu shot tents.

The Carolina Association of Pharmacy Students is the largest organization in the School of Pharmacy and has been running the flu shot tents, also called Operation Immunization, for six years.

This year’s fair will be held Oct. 17-27 in Raleigh.

The Pharmacy School will be partnering with Kerr Drug. The fair’s spokeswoman Sarah Ray said the shots will be $30, but Kerr Drug accepts most forms of insurance.

Ray said that patients must have their insurance card and physician information in order to receive a shot, and must be at least 14 years old.

Though the Pharmacy School has been administering flu shots for the past six years, this year a new law allows immunizing pharmacists to administer any CDC-recommended vaccination to patients age 18 and up with a prescription.

Pharmacy professor Macary Marciniak, chapter advisor of Operation Immunization, said that she is very excited for the shot administration.

“It has been growing and keeps growing,” she said. “It is definitely a booth that gets a lot of traffic.”

Marciniak was instrumental in the passing of the new vaccination law and said it took about three years to educate legislators and for the law to pass.

Pharmacy student Jenny Levine said that she is particularly excited that this event takes place in October because it is American Pharmacists Month.

Both Levine and the other students involved in Operation Immunization said they want to recognize and promote pharmacists as the most accessible healthcare providers.

Levine said there will be eight immunizing student pharmacists at the fair each day, along with four first-year pharmacy students who are not yet certified to give immunizations, but will be educating the public about the new law and different vaccines.

Levine said most of the students giving the vaccinations will have had prior experience.

“A lot of them work in pharmacies as interns,” said Levine. “They have to give three shots for certification.”

Second year pharmacy student and Operation Immunization co-chair Rachel LaBianca said there is no reason why people shouldn’t be getting flu shots.

“Vaccines are a very easy way to prevent illnesses,” she said.

LaBianca said that she is passionate about immunizations, but always wondered why her sister got a flu shot at the fair every year when they were growing up.

“When I first found out that my sister did this, I said why would you get a flu shot when there are so many germs, dirt and fried food?” LaBianca said.

She said she has since realized that having the tents at the fair allows pharmacists to reach out to people who may not be thinking about their health otherwise.

Marciniak said that the flu shot is especially important to create a “circle of protection” around those who cannot get the shot for health reasons such as food allergies.

“If you are six months of age or older, the flu shot is for you.”

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