FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- You really can avoid the flu this year, and help those around you from getting it too.

Successfully avoiding the flu involves getting immunized. And getting someone to get an immunization involves successful and effective communication.

You may have been the target of a specific, proven, time-tested communication technique involving truth and logic in the past without even knowing it.

Personally, when it comes to getting shots, I may know how you may feel. I'm apprehensive about the whole idea of receiving a vaccine containing a foreign substance resembling the current strain of influenza in the hope that my body will build immunity to the virus.

It's the fear that I may actually get the flu from getting the flu shot, as well as the fact that I just don't like shots!

If this is you, I've felt the same way. In fact, just getting a shot, for any reason, will never make my list of fun things to do with the family this year. No--I just don't like shots--and neither do my wife and kids! We're just odd like that.

But I have a family member with a long-term health issue, which makes this person a high risk for getting the flu; all the more reason to get a flu vaccination.

I remember a particular year when I failed to get immunized and got the flu, then gave it to my newborn granddaughter, Haley. She was just a baby, 6-months old, and it was a terrible thing to see her go through that, wheezing and coughing and so sick.

I had gotten too busy that year, didn't schedule a time to go get vaccinated, and generally just kept putting it off. I let my dislike of shots and rumored fear, justify my procrastination.

I'd forgotten my experience of having the flu as a kid, growing up in Michigan's "Winter Wonderland." I remember laying in my bed as a kid, looking out my bedroom window at the swirling snow and hearing my siblings' pulling each other around on sleds, laughing and having all kinds of fun.

I was sick--with fever from the flu, and sick because I wasn't outside having all of that fun with the other kids.

As an adult, laying in bed sick and remembering that experience, I had plenty of time to relive other childhood memories of sledding and tobogganing, the aroma of hot coco, the warmth of the cup in my hands, the smell of the fire burning in the lodge fireplace near the bottom of the city's sled hill and toboggan run. It's a Michigan thing…

But as I lay there, sick again as an adult, I began to logically deduce and understand that I had increased the chances that my family would get the flu by being at home with them, sick, exposing them to the flu, instead of decreasing the chances that they'd receive it by getting immunized.

Not exactly rocket science, but I finally let my mind go there and take responsibility.

And then there is the sick leave I was using, as opposed to saving. When I take leave, I usually do so with the intention of having some sort of fun. But I was having none of that laying there sick in bed. And sick leave, I want to save.

Just suppose you could prevent yourself, your new baby, an elderly parent, an elderly person at the grocery store, or a coworker or friend, from getting the flu and infecting their loved ones, coworkers--and you--by getting immunized.

What if you could get past a rational fear of painful shots, as well as an irrational fear of receiving the flu from getting immunized?

If you could get past both rational and irrational fears, and get your head around the fact that you could be saving yourself, your family, and your coworkers and friends, from getting each other sick, missing school, wasting leave, and even having to be hospitalized--or worse--just by getting vaccinated--then would you consider getting a flu shot?

Considering your schedule this week, when is a good time for you to get yourself and your family members to walk-in and get flu shots?

You don't even need an appointment. That's right, flu shots are free and given on a walk-in basis, Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital immunizations clinic, located in room 107 of the northwest corner of the hospital's new north Primary Care Clinic wing.

If you're enrolled at the Ozark Family-Centered Medical Home satellite clinic, located in the Saint Robert Municipal Center, you can get your flu shot there on a walk-in basis as well.

Some flu facts:

• Influenza vaccinations are given on a walk-in basis only, Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the hospital immunizations clinic, room 107, and at the OFCMH clinic.
• Influenza vaccinations are given to children over 6-month in age and there is no age limit for adults.
• The "mist" (influenza vaccination in the form of a mist, as opposed to a shot) cannot be given to adults over the age of 49
• The "mist" should not be given to those who are exposed to others with a compromised immune system.
• Just getting your influenza immunization protects the young and elderly.
• You can't get influenza from an influenza vaccination.
• Achiness and a little fever is normal after receiving an influenza vaccination.
• If you're experiencing flu-like symptoms after getting vaccinated, it may be because you were already exposed before you received the vaccination.
• It takes two weeks to build immunity to the flu after getting vaccinated.
• Missouri has had over 13,000 cases of the flu this season.
• We do not expect any shortages in doses this year.
• If you're sick, stay home.
• Wash your hands and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
• High-risk individuals include:
o The young
o The old
o Those with long-term health issues like cancer, diabetes and asthma
• You can contact the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital immunization clinic by phone at (573) 596-1768 for more information.

Using the very same simple sales technique I've just used on you, you can bring others to a place of understanding about the importance of getting an influenza vaccination.

If you've ever talked with a military recruiter, chances are this technique has been used on you, though hopefully as forthright, as I've just used it here!

That's right--you've just been recruited--for a flu shot!

Here's what you've just experienced:
1. I know how you feel--I've felt the same way (truthful sympathy/empathy).
2. Just suppose… (Present a true, realistic scenario based on common experiences.)
3. Then would you consider…getting a flu shot? (If you don't pose this question, you can't make the sale!)
4. When is a good time to…schedule yourself/family for walk-in flu shots? (Specifically ask "when" to seal the committment and make the sale.)

Go try this out on your wife and kids, coworkers and friends!

You now have the knowledge to be an Influenza Immunization Recruiter and further decrease your chances of getting the flu through exposure, by increasing others' chances of getting immunized through the use of this proven, time-tested sales technique!

(Editor's note: John Brooks is the marketing and public affairs officer at the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.)