Summit County nurses administer over 270 flu shots at first community drive
FRISCO — Summit County officials are pulling out all the stops to help prevent the flu this year.
On Saturday, Oct. 10, the Summit County Public Health department hosted its first socially-distant flu shot drive as part of an effort to get widespread usage of the vaccine throughout the county.
Nurses from the health department as well as volunteer nurses from Colorado Mountain College and the Summit Community Care Clinic administered over 270 shots at the Bus Barn outside of the County Commons in Frisco. Volunteers from the Summit County Community & Senior Center helped with traffic control at the event.
This year, flu season is coinciding with the novel coronavirus pandemic — a combination that worries public health officials. The two viruses hitting at once could be a recipe for overwhelming health care systems and contributing to general confusion.
“If we have a lot of flu circulating in our community, that impacts our health care system and competes for those resources when we’re also trying to provide those resources for COVID patients,” Public Health Director Amy Wineland said.
COVID-19 and the flu have very similar symptoms — headache, fever, runny nose, sore throat and cough — which means getting a flu vaccine can help people determine which virus they have.
“By preventing influenza, and the illness resulting from influenza virus, we’re hoping to see less people that are ill this winter season and mimicking COVID symptoms,” Summit County Nurse Manager Sara Lopez said.
Saturday’s drive also served another purpose for Summit County officials: it allowed the health department to practice widespread distribution of a vaccine in preparation for when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
“We’ve practiced a large-scale event like this in the past for medication delivery, but never for immunization,” Lopez said. “It’s going to provide us the opportunity to really learn from this event and be able to tweak our processes and practices so that we’re well prepared if we need to stand this operation up when a COVID vaccine becomes available.”
Everyone who received a flu shot on Saturday was able to remain in their cars the entire time. As people arrived, Wineland and other volunteers screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
Patients were then able to go into a drive thru area similar to a car wash, where nurses administered the shots from outside their car windows. The whole process took at most 10 minutes.
Karen Meza, a nurse with the Community Care Clinic, said she thought the planning for the event was really well done.
“It has gone so well,” she said. “I love that people can stay in their car and just drive through.”
The other major goal of the drive was to provide an opportunity for people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a vaccine. The shots were free for everyone who was uninsured or underinsured.
“The people that have the highest risk are the ones that can’t afford it (and) don’t have the time because they have two or three jobs,” Meza said. “They don’t have to worry about paying for it. It’s crucial for everyone. That’s how we protect each other.”
Lopez said the county is also doing more targeted vaccination “pods” in high-risk areas of the community.
“We’ve set up a number of clinics in the community that coincide with community dinners, food distribution points or places in the community that have high density housing,” Lopez said.
The department will be hosting a second flu shot drive from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, Lopez said. People can make an appointment to receive their shot at the event by visiting SummitCountyCO.gov.
If the county sees a high demand for the flu shots through the two drives, Wineland said they will consider hosting more events like it.
Wineland said it’s important for everyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to get a test, whether they’ve had their flu shot or not.
“That’s the quickest way we can determine whether it’s COVID or not COVID,” she said. “That will help decrease the amount of disruption to in-person learning (and) keep our numbers low.”
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