The Alabama Department of Public Health will host a drive-thru clinic in Anniston on Oct. 7, though it’s not for COVID-19. This one is focused on the flu.
Flu season often begins in October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ramping up to a spike of cases in December. Meanwhile, the COVID season continues and the two viral seasons are set to overlap, according to Lindsey Laminack, a nurse supervisor with the Alabama Department of Public Health and its Infection Prevention and Control Team.
The infection control team intends to hold flu vaccine clinics each week, which people can attend without leaving their cars, Laminack said in a live broadcast Monday afternoon with the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency.
The first drive-thru flu vaccine clinic will be held Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the intersection of West 11th and Grove streets in Anniston.
“You can call to find local drive-thru clinics that we’re hosting, and help minimize your risk of coming in contact with someone infected with the virus, and it will make it easier and more convenient for you,” Laminack said.
The vaccination will be free for people with Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance, according to a release from the EMA. Those with other kinds of insurance or no insurance will be charged a $15 fee, though services won't be denied if a patient cannot pay. The event will last until supplies run out, the release says.
Laminack encouraged residents to visit the drive-thru clinic or call the county health department for more guidance on getting the vaccine. The Calhoun County Department of Public Health can be reached at 256-237-7523.
Meanwhile, Laminack said, behaviors that have become second nature during the pandemic are also effective against the influenza virus, and should be maintained: handwashing, wearing masks and keeping about six feet of personal space.
“Be diligent, and don’t give up just yet,” Laminack said during the broadcast. “What we’re doing is working.”
She also discussed the concurrent COVID and flu seasons. According to Laminack, it’s possible to contract both viruses at once, which may cause complications.
“You can contract both,” Laminack said in the broadcast. “If you are infected with one, you’re now immune-compromised, and you’re more at risk for another infection.”
The overlap might create problems for groups already identified as at-risk for COVID, she said, including the elderly and those with already-compromised immune systems, and may cause complications during pregnancy.
Exactly how a patient might react to that invasive influence is up to their individual immune systems, said Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer with ADPH, in a phone call Monday night. While the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 may be similar, Landers noted, at least one is more avoidable.
“Just make sure to get your flu shot,” Landers said.
Laminack said the same during the broadcast, while again encouraging pandemic practices to stave off cases of the flu.
“We encourage everyone to get their flu vaccine and just know the facts,” Laminack said. “And to practice good hand hygiene and preventative measures. We’re still encouraging wearing masks and covering coughs and sneezes.”