WILMINGTON—With flu season arriving October through May, it could make for what medical professionals are calling a “twindemic”—when flu and novel coronavirus outbreaks increase and threaten lives, while potentially burdening hospital infrastructure. New Hanover County is trying to curtail numbers by giving free flu vaccinations at its drive-through event, Flu Thru, on Oct. 24, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Last season, statewide influenza numbers topped out at 12,076 cases and 186 deaths. As of Oct. 13, North Carolina Covid-19 cases equate to 233,000 and 3,802 deaths.
According to a county press release, the collaboration between New Hanover County, New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Cape Fear Community College will provide 500 standard-dose shots to community members over 6 months old on a first-come, first-serve basis. No proof of residency or insurance is needed to participate, and Spanish and ASL interpreters will be onsite.
Flu Thru also will provide participants an opportunity to safely get rid of old medications, as well as syringes, e-cigarettes and vaping devices (batteries must be removed beforehand).
There will be a drive-through and walk-up option at Flu Thru. Cars will line up in CFCC’s student parking lot between Hanover and Brunswick streets, next to the Schwartz Center. County officials ask attendees to remain in their cars and follow directions through the medication disposal and/or vaccination lines. Anyone attending by foot will be directed to the tent at the corner of 2nd and Hanover Street.
Flu Thru is part of New Hanover County’s Point of Distribution Plan to ensure the county properly distributes medications and medical supplies amid a public health emergency—in this case, strengthening preventative responses to influenza during Covid-19.
New Hanover County’s assistant health director, Carla Turner, stated in the press release, “Not only are these exercises important to keep us prepared for future events and the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, but getting your flu vaccine is an important strategy in limiting the impact of COVID-19 during cold and flu season. It’s imperative that anyone and everyone who can, get their flu shot to protect themselves and others and to prevent overburdening our healthcare system with COVID-19 and influenza at the same time.”
Annually, the Center for Disease Control reviews the makeup of flu viruses and updates the vaccine according to what’s tracking across the U.S. The 2020-21 vaccination will cover three or four strands:
- A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus (updated)
- A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus (updated)
- B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus
The CDC recommends flu shots be taken by the end of October to combat the upcoming season. The organization is not reporting on the efficacy rate of the 2020-21 vaccine yet and won’t have data until further into the season.
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