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The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) and two community organizations are now distributing vouchers for free flu shots to uninsured people.

Each voucher covers the cost of a flu shot and its administration at any area Walgreens pharmacy. There are no costs or fees to voucher recipients.

Vouchers are available at nine HDHHS multi-service centers during business hours. The multi-service centers and their addresses are:

* Denver Harbor, 6402 Market Street

* Acres Homes, 6719 W. Montgomery

* Fifth Ward, 4014 Market Street

* Hiram Clarke, 3810 West Fuqua

* Kashmere, 4802 Lockwood

* Northeast, 9720 Spaulding

* Southwest, 6400 High Star

* Third Ward, 3611 Ennis Street

* West End, 170 Heights Blvd

Organizations issuing vouchers are VN Teamwork, and Ibn Sina. Other organizations are planning to help with the voucher distribution.

Each recipient may request a single voucher or multiple vouchers depending on the size of family. Vouchers expire April 15, 2011.

HDHHS received 5,000 vouchers as part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program to address flu vaccination disparities among Hispanics and African-Americans. Houston is one of eight cities selected for the program because of disparities and available infrastructure and resources.

Results from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, conducted in early November, indicate Houston’s flu vaccination coverage for people 6 months of age and older was 41.7 percent for whites, 29.8 percent for African-Americans and 20.8 percent for Hispanics.

Among adults 18 and older, the vaccination coverage for whites remains nearly the same at 41.1 percent and rises slightly to 32 percent for African-Americans, but drops to 16.6 percent for Hispanics.

The coverage among all children 6 months to 17 years of age rises to 44.3 percent for whites and to 28.8 percent for Hispanics, but slides down to 25.1 percent for African-Americans.

The flu is a contagious respiratory disease that results in symptoms such as fever, headache, tiredness, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat and body aches. Most people recover in one to two weeks, but some develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections.