What does Santa want for Christmas? A swine flu shot

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on November 17, 2009 at 11:49 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

SEATTLE - Babies, pregnant women, and healthcare workers all get priority when it comes to the swine flu shot. But now, many Santas are pushing to be on that list as well.

Over the next five weeks, a Santa sitting at the mall can come face to face with more than a thousand kids.

"They'll sit on your lap and they'll go (sniffle sniffle)," says William Harvey, who is Santa William at the Bellevue Mall. "No Kleenex or handkerchief, and they'll use their sleeve or their hand and then talk to you."

Because of that, on Santa's wish list this year is a swine flu shot.

A national group called Santa America has asked Congress to include all Saint Nicks on the priority list for the H1N1 vaccine.

"It is a concern in that we're in very close contact with kids," says Russ Long, another area Santa.

It's not only the exposure to children. Many Santas have had one cookie too many, and according to the Associated Press, studies show obesity can be a risk factor for severe swine flu.

Some Santas also volunteer at local hospitals and don't want to spread illness along with holiday cheer.

Tonight Arthur and Associates Holiday Photography held a staff meeting for all their Santas and Santa's Helpers. They gave some advice on handling hygiene. Most of the Santas in the room said they already had their regular flu shot. Only one was able to get a swine flu shot.

So this year, Santa is asking mom and dad, if Johnny's sick, keep him at home, and send a letter to the North Pole instead.

"A little preparation by families would really be helpful," says Santa Russ.

"You don't know what a child can be carrying," says Santa William. "They won't give it to you intentionally, and say 'I've got the swine flu, can I sit on your lap?'"

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