Google's Larry Page Shoos the Flu: Here's How

As Wired magazine noted recently, "Larry Page lives by the gospel of 10X." That means he wants Google's products and services to be 10 times better than anyone else's. Not 10% better, but 10 times better.

Don't laugh; it seems to be working. Google's doing pretty well. And it is this 10X approach that has led to one of Page's more recent philanthropic endeavors — one that derived from the technological but in the end was all humanitarian. (See IP's Google Foundation profile.)

Google.org is the company's philanthropic arm, and one of its largest projects is a service for tracking pandemics as they spread around the United States and the world. One day, Page was looking at Google's flu-tracking service and didn't like what he saw. So he and his wife, Lucy, decided they would simply pay for free flu shots for children throughout the entire Bay Area. That's how the Shoo the Flu program was born.

Shoo the Flu was administered through the Page Family Foundation, and every child in the Bay Area from age four to 18 was eligible to receive a free flu shot at most of the Target Pharmacies in the region throughout the month of December. Larry Page being Larry Page, there were posters plastered all over Bay Area schools and clinics. He also put a notice up on his Google+ page. (Read Larry Page's IP profile.)

The concept behind Shoo the Flu was simple. By vaccinating children, the program was not only improving children's health and making them less likely to miss school but also protecting the adult population to a certain extent. By reducing the risk to adults, it was preventing lost work and other associated problems. The foundation also worked alongside the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to raise awareness of the flu season's expected peak and started the program during Flu Vaccination Week. The dates for Flu Vaccination Week vary, but it's often around the first week of December every year.

Page's Shoo the Flu program was such a huge hit that it was extended through the month of January. In all, nearly 5,000 San Francisco Bay Area children received free flu shots, and every indication is that the program will repeat next flu season. Perhaps it could become an annual event.