According to Jaime Downs, director of the Butler County Health Department, this is a critical year for getting a flu shot.
That is, in part, because of pandemic COVID-19 which has grabbed headlines as it spread across the globe, and found its way to Butler County about six months ago.
"It is very important to get a flu shot," Downs said. "The symptoms for flu and COVID are so similar."
Getting a flu shot can help prevent the flu — it can also make recovery from influenza easier.
"We know sometimes [the vaccine] does not cover all teh strains that come our way," Downs said. "But [with the shot, the flu] will not be as severe."
And her department has forged a new partnership to help make it possible for the uninsured and under insured to get the shot. The health department will be partnering with Susan B. Anthony Memorial Hospital Foundation to create drive through flu clinics.
"We will have a good supply of doses," Downs said. "Between us, and other sources, we would like to see the whole population of Butler County get vaccinated."
The first clinc will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 29 at the 4-H Community Building at 206 N. Griffith in El Dorado. The second clinic will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Emergency Mangement/EMS building at 2100 Ohio St B in Augusta.
That’s a lofty goal. According to Kaisser Health Foundation, 45% of the U.S. population got a flu shot last year. Manufacturers are producing more vaccine supply this year, between 194 million and 198 million doses, or about 20 million more than they distributed last season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The hospital typically orders about 800 doses a year, and the health department will also have a supply for the upcoming clinics.
For the clinic partnership, the hospital will supply the bulk of the vaccine and a location for the flu shot clinic. The Health Department will supply the manpower to give the shots. Downs said the hospital wanted to give flu shots this year, but needed more nurses and staff to consider clinics.
The staffing concerns are due, in part, to COVID-19 — and COVID-19 is what makes getting a flu shot so important this year.
"Hospitals are already overburdened with COVID. We don’t need them dealing with a flu outbreak as well," Downs said.
The CDC estimates that as many as 710,000 people suffered from the flu in the 2019-2020 flu season ending April 4. The organization also estimated there were up to 62,000 deaths.
According to the World Health Organization, the flu causes up to 5 million cases of severe illness worldwide and kills up to 650,000 people every year worldwide.