"The goal is to create an immunity within the company," he said. "If someone does get the flu, it doesn't run rampant throughout the company. All the company managers and house managers have my name. They call me if someone gets sick. Anyone who calls me, I will make a house visit to their entity." Kohn also makes occasional trips to other cities to provide flu shots to theatre companies working there.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS gives Kohn's nonprofit an annual grant that pays for the flu vaccine. When he began the program, flu shots were quite cheap: a couple bucks a shot. Since then, the shots have become more expensive.
Producers do not fund the flu shots, but they are supportive of the effort. "Producers had concerns about requiring people to take flu shots" when he began the program, said Kohn. "They're happy we're doing it, but they're not sponsoring it, because they don't want to take medical or legal responsibility."
On some busy days, Kohn can give 400 to 700 flu shots. He has inoculated 4,800 people so far this year alone.
Kohn's efforts notwithstanding, many actors take additional measures to fend off illness. "Staying healthy is a major priority for singers," said Judy McLane of Broadway's Mamma Mia! "For me, I keep a humidifier in my dressing room. In cold and flu season some of the things I do are gargle with salt and/or apple cider vinegar; go for acupuncture every week; take garlic and vitamin C; and, to ward off the bug, take grapefruit seed extract. Steaming is key to keeping the voice healthy."
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