So last week , the 56-year-old lined up for a free flu shot at a clinic targeted at taxi and limo drivers at O'Hare International Airport. All day, drivers stopped at the site, which was in a parking lot, during their breaks, hoping to keep the airborne virus at bay before the flu season gets into full swing.
"I don't know if it makes a difference or not, but I'm going to give it a shot," said Ideis, of Berwyn, as he filled out an application beside a handful of nurses. "I've got to try and protect myself too."
Reaching out to taxi and limo drivers, who are less likely to be insured, is a new strategy being deployed by the Chicago Department of Public Health and the University of Chicago Medicine. The drivers are also at a greater risk of getting the flu because of the nature of their job, local health officials said.
This week, organizers planned to take the clinic to cab and limo drivers at Midway Airport in hopes of vaccinating up to 1,000 drivers by the time the program ends.
"If you're coughing and sneezing in the same car, you can really spread the flu, especially in the close quarters of a cab," said Heather Limper, vaccination outreach program director at the University of Chicago.
Nationally, public health departments have encouraged the health care industry to offer their employees flu vaccinations. Recently, that effort has extended in creative ways to non-health care businesses, such as the taxi industry, said Dr. Julie Morita, medical director of the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Also, the city's Health Department and two other groups are starting a new initiative this year to push large businesses — from hotels to manufacturing industries — to offer the vaccines and educate workers about the importance of flu shots.
About 200,000 people each year are hospitalized because of influenza, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"People don't remember the flu is a serious disease," Morita said. "They think it's the cold or stomach flu, and it's more serious than that."
At the pop-up O'Hare flu clinic, nurses opened up the station an hour and a half ahead of schedule when dozens of taxi and limo drivers began lining up early. The free flu vaccines protect people against three strains of flu: H3N2, H1N1 and type B.
As the day progressed, there was hardly a lull. A steady stream of drivers, some dressed in suits, cycled in every few minutes. They rolled up their sleeves, sat down and let nurses inject a needle into an upper arm.
When a needle pricked her arm, limo driver Yasmin Ali, 42, deflected teasing from some of her co-workers.
"They think they never get sick, but you never know," said Ali, who has gotten a flu shot annually for the last 10 years.
Nearby stood Jacob Trakhten, 54, a limo driver who debated getting a shot for more than 10 minutes. After calling a friend for advice, Trakhten hopped in line.
"I deal with people from all over the world," he said. "You never know what they have."