Hoping to boost the percentage of people who get vaccinated, two separate local organizations are planning flu shot clinics this week. One of them, Isabella Citizens for Health, is planning a series of clinics for the next several weeks.
A drive-thru flu shot clinic is planned for Wednesday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the parking garage of the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, 6800 Soaring Eagle Blvd., east of Mt. Pleasant.
The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has partnered with the Central Michigan District Health Department to hold the clinic in the casino’s parking garage.
Frank Cloutier, SCIT spokesman, called it a perfect situation with buses not currently using it. People who want their flu shots just drive into the parking structure’s main entrance, get their shot, wait 15 minutes to make sure there is no reaction and drive out the back to exist that feed into either Broadway, for an east-west exit, or Leaton, for a north-south exit.
There is no charge for the shot, said Melissa DeRoche, spokeswoman for CMDHD. The cost is covered by most health insurance plans. People without health insurance can get a shot for free, she said.
Participants are asked to bring their government-issued ID cards, health insurance cards and wear masks. People sick with COVID-19 symptoms are asked to not attend.
Cloutier said the Tribe decided to do it at a time when people need to see to the needs of others.
“The more we can do to help, the better off we’re all going to be,” he said.
The clinic will either last until 4 p.m. or until the vaccine is gone. If the clinic ends due to vaccine supply, they will plan additional clinics.
Starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Isabella Citizens for Health is planning to hold a second flu shot clinic that day at its location at 2790 Health Parkway, in Mt. Pleasant. It will last until 7 p.m. It is for people 5 years old and older.
ICH has partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to put on the clinic, said Jennifer White, CEO of ICH.
As with the Soaring Eagle clinic, there is no charge, including for people who don’t have health insurance. As with the Soaring Eagle clinic, people are asked to bring their government-issued ID card, health insurance card (if they have one) and wear a mask. People who are sick with COVID-19 symptoms are asked to not attend until they are well.
There is one additional thing. People who get a flu shot at one of these clinics will receive a $15 gift card to either Meijer or Wal-Mart.
The incentive is part of a goal to increase the flu vaccination rate by 33 percent, White said.
ICH has scheduled multiple flu shot clinics to do that.
They have scheduled flu shot clinics for people 5 years old and older from 4-7 p.m. at their Health Parkway location Wednesday and Thursday this week, from Nov. 2-5, Nov. 9-13, Nov. 16-20 and Nov. 23-25. Those are all Monday through Thursday, except the last week when it is Monday through Wednesday.
For people 6 months and older, they have Saturday morning clinics planned from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Health Parkway location. They start this week and include Nov. 7, Nov. 14 and Nov. 21.
Flu vaccinations have taken on a new sense of urgency as the number of COVID-19 cases climb across the upper Midwest.
“The big one is COVID-flu co-infection. Here we are entering the cold-flu season. Now it’s cold-flu-COVID season. It’s a real problem,’’ Dr. Russell Faust, Oakland County’s medical director, told the Oakland Press for a story that ran last Wednesday.
Faust said that another risk is that when people go to the emergency room experiencing flu-like symptoms that they are often given a panel test before being given a COVID-19 test. There is a risk if someone has both infections, is given a panel test that comes back positive, and no COVID test is given.
“What I’m a little worried about is hospitals or ERs will run a respiratory panel and see that you have the flu and stop there. You don’t want them to stop there because you may have both,’’ Faust said. “You want them to also test for COVID. You don’t want to miss the co-infection, co-infection is a big deal.’’
Co-infection doubles the risk of death in people over 60, he said.
Most flu shots these days are designed to provide protection for four strains of flu virus, two strains of Type A and two strains of Type B. Type A strains are those that have hopped from animals to people, and are more lethal. One of those strains, the H1N1, was responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and the pandemic in 2009.
Type B flu is found only in humans. While it can still kill, it is generally considered to be much less lethal than Type B.
Last year, the CDC estimated that the vaccine prevented 7.5 million flu infections and prevented 6,300 flu deaths.
Because the flu vaccine is developed based on watching the flu season in other parts of the world, in some years, the vaccine is not always an exact match for the strain that comes to dominate the U.S. flu season.
Doctors caution that regardless of how well it matches, a flu shot provides some protection and significantly reduces the chances of death.
This year, there is some hope that the vaccine might be especially effective because the vaccine distributed is the same as last year’s.
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