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Drive-thru flu clinic growing in popularity

Decatur Daily - 10/20/2017

Oct. 20--Local health and emergency officials reported a heavier turnout at this year's drive-thru flu vaccination clinic in Morgan County, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported only sporadic influenza activity in Alabama and most of the country.

Leeah Harcrow, clinical nurse coordinator for the Morgan County Health Department, reported 268 flu shots were administered during the clinic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Morgan County Fairgrounds. That is up from the 127 shots given the prior year.

Harcrow attributed the turnout to increased promotions through local media outlets and more public awareness of the program, which restarted last year after a multi-year hiatus.

"Hopefully, we'll get to do this every year and have a bigger turnout each year," she said.

Organized by the Morgan County Health Department and the Morgan County Emergency Management Agency, the clinic is designed to provide the public access to influenza vaccine and demonstrate how emergency personnel would respond in the event of a widespread influenza outbreak requiring mass inoculations.

The Alabama Department of Public Health recommends pregnant women, children over the age of 6 months, people over the age of 50, health care workers, and anyone with a chronic disease should get an influenza vaccine annually.

Flu season generally starts in October and runs through February or May.

While the flu is not generally fatal for healthy adults, it can lead to life-threatening problems such as pneumonia, especially in people with weakened immune systems or chronic disease.

People who are not in high-risk groups can reduce the odds of spreading the virus to at-risk people by getting the vaccine, according to the CDC.

For many at Thursday's drive-thru clinic, it was about the convenience.

"You don't have to wait in a doctor's office. It's wonderful to be able to drive through without even having to get out of your car," said Laura Hydrie, a Decatur resident who said she gets the vaccine every year.

For others, including Alma Roman of Decatur, it was their first flu vaccine in years.

"I just don't want to get sick. I've had the flu before and didn't feel good," she said.

Calhoun Community College students were part of the clinic. Steven Holaway, a nursing instructor at Calhoun, said students are studying emergency management this semester, making the clinic a good educational opportunity. It also gave them a chance to practice the skills and give back to the community, he said.

Candace Adkins, an emergency preparedness nurse at the Morgan County Health Department, said simultaneous exercises were held by several of the 183 members of the North Alabama Health Care Coalition, which includes hospitals, doctor offices, home health systems, schools and other agencies.That included a clinic at the Lawrence County Health Department.

While getting a flu vaccination can reduce a person's chances of contracting the virus, it is not a guarantee. That is because the virus is prone to gradual -- and occasionally sudden -- genetic changes that fool the body's immune response.

Even if someone with a flu vaccine contracts the virus, having the vaccine tends to make the illness less severe, Harcow said.

For those who missed the clinic, leftover shots are available at the Morgan County Health Department. The shots are $5 each and free for people with Medicare or Medicaid.

Additionally, the Limestone County Health Department is planning a similar clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Athens Sportsplex.

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evan.belanger@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2439. Twitter @evanbelanger.

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(c)2017 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)

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