The Florida Department of Health in Orange County will be offering its yearly drive-thru flu shots starting Saturday at Freedom High School, 2500 W. Taft Vineland Road, Orlando.
WMFE spoke with the agency’s epidemiology program manager, Alvina Chu, about how the clinics work and why it’s crucial to get vaccinated this year.
WMFE: So why is it especially important to get vaccinated for the flu this year during the pandemic?
Chu: Well, as we know, there is still coronavirus or the COVID-19 virus circulating in our community. We are still in the middle of a pandemic. And the start of flu season was recently at the beginning of October and so these are both respiratory viruses which have very similar symptoms. And we have a good vaccine that could help prevent the flu and also help reduce severity of illnesses and prevent hospitalizations. So while we have that good preventative measure for the influenza, it would help us prevent overflow for our hospital systems should the coronavirus increase and then we get additional hospitalizations and severe illnesses from that.
WMFE: How does this drive-thru clinic work? And can kids be inoculated as well?
Chu: Sure, so our upcoming flu clinic is a drive-thru. So you roll in, you roll up your sleeves and then you roll out after getting the vaccine. It’s first come first served while supplies last. … We can vaccinate all Orange County residents and children 6 months of age and older, no appointment is needed.
WMFE: And is it safe to get a flu shot during the pandemic?
Chu: Certainly, it is absolutely safe to get the flu shot during this pandemic. And it’s especially important to because we want to reduce illnesses and hospitalization from the flu. And that’s particularly critical during this pandemic time because we don’t have a vaccine yet for the coronavirus. And so there might be, while we have these two viruses and others by respiratory viruses circulating since it’s that time of year, we’d like to help reduce the number of hospitalizations, potential hospitalizations and also reduce severe illness from respiratory viruses, particularly the flu with the vaccine.
WMFE: So what safety precautions have you guys put in place at the drive-thru clinic to protect people from coronavirus?
Chu: So we practice the good pandemic precautions as we have been promoting throughout this pandemic, which is the watching your distance, wearing masks and washing your hands or practicing good hand hygiene. So we socially distance persons who are coming in to get the flu vaccine. Our health care workers will be wearing appropriate PPE, and also we will have the opportunities for good hand hygiene through the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
WMFE: Why is it that some experts are also recommending folks get a pneumonia vaccine?
Chu: So it’s not a new recommendation. But for our focus this year since there is this novel coronavirus, circulating. And it’s causing additional respiratory illnesses as we’d like to prevent our seasonal or known respiratory illnesses as we would before. So there is a good preventative vaccine for pneumonia and also for influenza. And so to help reduce the amount of respiratory disease that we’re seeing in our community we recommend that people get these vaccines to help prevent them from these respiratory illnesses until we can get a good coronavirus vaccine in circulation.