Flu vaccines "vital" amid pandemic, drive-thru event set for Sept. 25

Michael D. Smith

Southern Oklahomans are urged to prepare for flu season amid a coronavirus pandemic. The Carter County Health Department and the Chickasaw Nation will team up later this month to provide free flu vaccines.

An emergency response trailer sits in front of the Carter County Health Department on Friday. The health department and Chickasaw Nation will hold a free drive-thru flu vaccination event later this month to prepare for flu season amid an ongoing pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, up to 198 million vaccine doses are expected to be manufactured for the upcoming flu season, up from the record 175 million doses manufactured during the 2019-2020 flu season.

About 32.4 million doses of flu vaccines had already been distributed across the country by the end of August. A CDC update from Aug. 31 said vaccine manufactures are not reporting any significant delays in distributing flu vaccines this season.

State health officials say communities need to prepare for flu season and get vaccinated as soon as possible since influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory viruses that could result in serious illness.

An average of more than 500,000 people — including more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 — are hospitalized from the flu each year in the US, according to CDC figures. Between Sept. 1, 2019, and Aug. 29, nearly 3,600 Oklahomans were hospitalized due to the flu, according to OSDH.

Nearly 5,400 Oklahoma residents have been hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 since March, according to OSDH data compiled by The Ardmoreite.

This year, health departments are concerned about the impact on individuals who contract both influenza and COVID-19 simultaneously, which could complicate health care providers’ ability to treat multiple infections. A severe flu season during a coronavirus pandemic could also strain health care resources further.

“This year it is vital that people receive their vaccination before flu viruses begin spreading in their community, since it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop and provide protection against flu,” said Mendy Spohn, Regional Administrative Director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, in a Wednesday statement.

For a fifth consecutive year, the Carter County Health Department and the Chickasaw Nation have joined forces to hold vaccine events across the area. County health departments are making plans for flu vaccinations at schools and public drive-thru events.

Questions about vaccine availability from the Chickasaw Nation were not answered this week.

EMS, SOAS and Carter County Health Department volunteers help administer flu shots during the health department’s annual drive-thru flu clinic on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.

The first public vaccine event in Ardmore this flu season is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 25, at the Ardmore Fire Station, 115 N. Rockford Rd., from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. The county health department last year held a similar drive-thru vaccine event that inoculated 800 people in about seven hours.

Anyone over the age of six months should receive the flu vaccine. Senior citizens, young children, pregnant women and individuals with chronic health conditions are more susceptible to serious health complications if they contract the virus.