Flu shots ‘more important than ever’

Vaccines available now; drive-thru clinic set for Oct. 7

Posted 10/1/20

While public health officials have spent the bulk of their last six months battling the new coronavirus, they’re now gearing up to combat a more familiar foe: influenza.

The flu season …

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Flu shots ‘more important than ever’

Vaccines available now; drive-thru clinic set for Oct. 7


While public health officials have spent the bulk of their last six months battling the new coronavirus, they’re now gearing up to combat a more familiar foe: influenza.

The flu season officially began this week and officials ranging from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the Wyoming Department of Health are again encouraging people to receive an annual flu vaccination, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because there are fewer restrictions in Wyoming now than in the spring, the potential harm to our residents and strain on our healthcare system from the combined threat of both influenza and COVID-19 could be significant,” State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said last week.

She said just about everyone over the age of 6 months should receive the vaccine.

“We do ask people to get flu shots every year, and this time it’s more important than ever,” Harrist said, saying they “are safe and reduce illness, hospitalizations and deaths.”

Although most healthy people can recover from COVID-19 and the flu, “they can spread both viruses to those who are at high risk for serious complications,” Harrist said, describing the vaccinations as one way to look out for others.

Local medical providers and pharmacies will be offering flu shots to the public over the coming weeks and months, though the procedures may look a little different to reduce the risk of transmitting disease.

At Powell Valley Healthcare, “in lieu of a walk-in or drive-thru clinic, we are scheduling time slots with our clinic nursing staff for folks to come in and get a flu shot,” said spokesman Jim Cannon. Powell Valley Clinic will begin providing vaccinations today (Thursday) and appointments can be made by calling 307-754-7257.

Meanwhile, Park County Public Health officials have scheduled a drive-thru flu shot clinic at the Park County Fairgrounds for Wednesday, Oct. 7.

“Rather than doing the big walk-in [clinic] that we usually do, we figured for infection control purposes a drive-thru would be really good,” said Public Health Nurse Supervisor Kindy Krei.

The quadrivalent shots — which are $25 for adults and $20 for children — will be offered from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m. Patients are asked to enter through the fairgrounds’ Seventh Street gate (near the Glad Tidings Church) and exit through the gate on Fifth Street.

Krei said it would be great if parents dressed their small children in a way that their legs are exposed, perhaps by putting them in a onesie and covering them with a blanket or another layer that can be easily removed.

“That way we can just give them the quick shot in the leg muscle without having to worry about getting them out [of the car] or anything like that,” she explained.

Those wanting to speed up the process can download the paperwork from the Park County Public Health website and fill it out ahead of time, Krei said, but that’s not required.

Public health will hold another drive-thru flu shot clinic in Cody on Wednesday, Oct. 14. It will also run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m. at the Cody Stampede Rodeo Grounds.

Beyond providing better social distancing, the drive-thru format should help prepare both public health workers and the community for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, Krei said.

“I will believe this when I see it, but we’re hearing things from the state that say it could be as early as November that we get this vaccine,” Krei said earlier this month. “And obviously, we have to figure out a way to get potentially 30,000 people [in Park County] vaccinated twice.”

That’s a reference to the fact that the vaccines now going through trials will likely require an initial dose followed by a booster.

“Obviously, we’re not going to want to do that [large number] in a walk-in situation,” Krei said. “So we thought this would be a good precursor to figuring that situation out.”

CDC head Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate committee last month that he expects limited amounts of a COVID-19 vaccine to become available in November or December, though it won’t become broadly available until the spring or early summer of 2021.

That means COVID-19 and influenza are expected to both circulate this winter, which “could place a tremendous burden on the healthcare system,” Redfield said. “Therefore, getting a flu vaccine is especially important.”

For those who miss public health’s drive-thru clinics, residents are also free to walk-in for flu shots at the Park County Annex in Powell on Monday afternoons from 1:30-4 p.m. Walk-ins are also welcome at the Cody office (located inside the courthouse) from 1:30-4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Additionally, flu shots can be scheduled like other vaccinations and “satellite clinics” can be arranged for businesses with more than 10 people in need of doses.

Beyond public health and Powell Valley Healthcare, Cody Regional Health and other businesses and medical providers in the county also offer vaccinations against the flu.

Krei said the number of flu shots distributed by public health has sunk in recent years to around 500, because more places are offering the shots and earlier.

“This year, we have no idea what to expect — whether it’s going to be an increase because of COVID or if it’s going to be a decrease because of COVID,” Krei said. “That will be interesting, but we’re prepared for 1,000 [doses] to start with.”

Manufacturers have projected that they’ll produce as many as 198 million doses of flu vaccine, the CDC says, which would be a new record.