How COVID-19 will impact getting your influenza vaccine
FRANKLIN — August is National Immunization Awareness Month and that makes us start to think about flu season and getting our flu shot. Normally, we sign up for a time slot to get our shot, plop into a chair with the rest of the folks in the waiting area, and head on in to see the nurse when it’s time. But with the impact of COVID-19 on the community and the emphasis on social distancing, the standard flu clinic will need a makeover this year.
“Getting your flu shot is so important this year,” says Jacinda Young, Clinical & Staff Development Manager at Franklin VNA & Hospice, and the head of the Infection Control Program there. “The health consequences of having both COVID-19 and Influenza could be so severe. Even just trying to determine what symptoms match with each illness will be difficult, since fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath and body aches are all common with both illnesses.”
This will make it much more difficult for all healthcare providers, daycares, schools, and employers to figure out how to advise people if and when they contact them with those symptoms. Is a parent calling with a child sick with COVID-19 who needs to be out for 14 days and have their contacts notified, influenza, or something else?
“This year we are not only offering flu shots to our patients in their homes,” Young notes, “but we are organizing a drive-through style flu clinic where patients will be able to receive vaccines in the safety of their cars with minimal exposure to others. Our staff will be able to work together to screen patients, vaccinate, and monitor patients while allowing them to stay apart from each other in a safe way.”
We recently spoke to one of the knowledgeable pharmacists at the Franklin CVS to ask how they planned to vaccinate this year and he said that while they were lucky to be an early receiver of influenza vaccine shipments that it would be different this year. “People won’t be able to congregate; they will need to maintain appropriate spacing while they wait.” He discussed the extra cleaning that would need to be done between each patient to ensure safety, and mask wearing as well.
Some primary care offices are not yet seeing patients physically, and won’t be offering flu vaccines at all, while others we contacted were open to vaccinating patients but acknowledged that they didn’t have a plan yet that accounted for the differences needed in a landscape where facemasks and social distancing have now become necessary.
Young finishes, “We encourage everyone to make a plan for their flu shot this year, and to work to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”
For more information, call Franklin VNA & Hospice at (603) 934-3454 or visit www.FranklinVNA.org.