COVID-19 and flu cause concern for healthcare provider during winter months
CLARK COUNTY — Thanks to some ingenuity and planning, Kaiser Permanente Northwest members will have the option of drive-thru and walk-up flu vaccinations this year.
Starting Oct. 3 and going through the end of the month, the clinics will be hosted in large tents with drive-thru lanes. After being checked in, patients will pull up and receive their shots through their car door or window.
“The flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu. We have a long history of using the flu vaccine, demonstrating both safety and efficacy,” said Infectious Disease lead for Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Dr. Katie Sharff. “This season, obviously, is different. The concern is that if we have rising COVID-19 cases, as well as a bad flu season, that could really put critical stressors on our healthcare system infrastructure.”
In 2019, Sharff explained how there were well over 400,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control. In adults who receive a flu vaccination, hospitalization is 40 percent less likely, according to Kaiser.
Sharff also explained how large regional up-ticks in flu tests could deplete testing supplies and adversely affect the ability to test for COVID-19. Supply capacity has been a challenge in recent months, and Kaiser is projecting with more vaccinations, less of those supplies will be needed this winter.
Ease of access is what they hope will encourage more people to get the flu shot. Locations will operate during October, and remain open six days a week; Monday through Saturday. During the week the clinics will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I think it’s really innovative. I’m excited by how we’ve designed them, the creativity and really making this come to life and seeing it happen,” Sharff said. “If enough people in the community are protected against a disease, in this situation influenza, then we don’t see that disease, that virus, transmitting as effectively. Eventually, it is no longer circulating, and no longer is a big problem.”
Sharff explained how the drive-thru clinics are also the best way to protect others as well as yourself. When someone is vaccinated, it can also protect the elderly and very young around them who are immune compromised or unable to get vaccinated.
“It’s an opportunity to vaccinate our members and keep them safe during this very very tumultuous time,” said Ruthie Berrell, a flu clinic director for Kaiser Permanente Northwest. “Flu kills thousands upon thousands of people every year.”
Flu shots are given at no charge to Kaiser members, and additional information about the flu vaccine can be found online at kp.org. There will be seven locations regionally, but only one in Clark County at the Cascade Park Medical Office.
“I think as individuals, we underestimate how serious the flu can be,” Sharff said. “We shouldn’t underestimate the flu. Take it seriously and do your part this season for yourself and for everyone else and get a flu shot, because we actually have a safe and effective vaccine.”