Because of the added importance of getting a flu vaccine this year, the Sequoyah County Health Department (SCHD), along with other county health departments and health-care providers in Oklahoma, began offering seasonal flu vaccinations Oct. 1.
The SCHD will be hosting a free, drive-through flu shot clinic from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Friday during October. The shots are free and no appointment is needed. The department will be providing flu vaccines for ages 6 months and up and it also has the high-dose flu shot for those 65 and older.
To get a vaccine at the Sequoyah County Health Department, you will need to bring a photo ID and insurance if available. If no insurance is available you will still receive a free flu vaccine.
In addition, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, in partnership with IMMYLabs, is offering free COVID-19 testing to everyone in the community. The voluntary testing will be from noon to 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5, at the Sallisaw High School parking lot, 701 S. J.T. Stites St.
Appointments are necessary for the free COVID-19 testing and may be scheduled at immylabs.com. On the day and time of your scheduled appointment, you will come to the drive-through location for testing. After testing, you will receive a text and an email within two business days with a link to access your results.
Almost everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year, but this year it is even more important because it is an effective way to prevent flu illness and another great tool for mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu vaccine by the end of October, before flu begins spreading in the community. The flu vaccine can keep a person from getting the flu and make the illness less severe if a person gets it.
The CDC has worked with vaccine manufacturers to have extra flu vaccine available this flu season, and Oklahoma will distribute 400,000 flu vaccine doses to ensure availability of an affordable or free flu shot this year.
During the last flu season, 3,580 Oklahoma residents were hospitalized because of flu-related illnesses, including 383 children under age 4, and 85 Oklahomans died, including three children under age 17.
While flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health-care system and conserve medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.
“It is critically important this year that every Oklahoman who can get the flu shot does so right away,” Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said. “This is a great method of preventing the spread of influenza in our communities, and I urge Oklahomans to take this proactive step.”
Children through age 18 are eligible to receive vaccines at no charge through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program if any of the following apply: they are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, Native American Indian, Native Alaskan or their insurance policy does not cover vaccines. Free flu shots are available at health-care providers enrolled in the VFC program, including all local county health departments and community health centers (CHC).
Uninsured adults may be able to get a flu shot for no out-of-pocket cost at most local county health departments and CHC across Oklahoma.
Insured adults and children are able to get a flu shot for free at their health-care provider or at a local pharmacy. Coverage can vary among different insurance plans.
There are many places to get a flu shot, including county health departments, doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, retail and grocery stores, community health centers and workplaces.
Where people get their flu shot this year may need to change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many places follow strict guidelines to create a safe environment for the community. It is easy to find a flu vaccine available at different providers at VaccineFinder.org.
The best way to prevent flu is to get vaccinated this fall. In addition to getting a flu shot, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reminds the community to follow these prevention tips:
*Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
*Outside your home, put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
*Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social-distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
*Stay home from work, school and other public places if you are ill. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
*Make “respiratory hygiene” a habit, including use of tissues to cover coughs and sneezes, then disposing of them and washing hands at once. When tissues are not readily available, use your sleeve, never your hands.
*Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
*Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of respiratory illness and take your temperature if symptoms develop. Call your health-care provider for advice if you are experiencing symptoms.
For more information, call (405) 271-7200 or visit fightflu.health.ok.gov.
Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer
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