Hoagland Pharmacy and the Bellingham Senior Activity Center create a drive-thru to fight the flu.
On Tuesday morning, eight cars were lined up at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center for the drive-thru flu shot clinic event. As fall and winter approach, flu season combined with COVID-19 has become a concern for some working with public health.
Amy Cloud, the public information officer of Whatcom Unified Command, urged everyone to get flu shots as soon as possible.
“Getting the flu vaccine can keep you from getting, and spreading, the flu during this COVID-19 pandemic,” Cloud said. “Fewer people with the flu means fewer likely to need hospitalization, which keeps hospitals from being overwhelmed.”
Carson Huntoon, a pharmacist at Hoagland Pharmacy, echoed her advice.
“Keep people healthy and reduce the overall burden during the pandemic,” Hunton said as he handled the vaccinations at Bellingham Senior Activity Center. He was done with the line-up of cars and walk-ups in about an hour.
Eric Pierson, program coordinator for the Bellingham Senior Activity Center, directed drive-thru patients to provide their insurance, Medicare or Medicaid information before getting the vaccine.
Steve Janssens used the drive-thru senior clinic to get his flu shot and said he was thankful for the service provided by Hoagland and the Bellingham Senior Activity Center.
“Because, as a senior citizen, I can’t afford it,” Janssens said.
According to Medicare.gov, people over 65 can get the flu vaccine once a year for free if they go to a pharmacy within their plan’s network. For questions about which pharmacies are in a plan’s network, Medicare.gov directs people to do one or more of the following;
- Contact your Medicare drug plan. The information should be on the back of the provided membership card.
- Read the “Medicare & You” handbook which provides information on Medicare plans in the area.
- Visit a Medicare plan finder which allows individuals to search and compare coverage.
- Call the State Health Insurance Assistance Program
- Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
Hoagland Pharmacy takes Medicare, Medicaid and Group Health according to their website.
Carrie Stephens, a 16-year partner with Hoagland Pharmacy, said she’s been working with Bellingham Senior Activity Center to offer the flu clinic the entire time she’s worked at the pharmacy. Stephens said that normally the clinic event would be held inside the senior center, but this year, with the pandemic, everything is different.
The drive-thru plan started with a simple question: “How can we do it and not have a bunch of people in the building?” Stephens said.
Pierson said the drive-thru flu clinic was adapted from the Bellingham Senior Activity Center’s drive-thru Meals on Wheels weekly program.
“They usually do a wellness fair and have a bunch of vendors,” Stephens said. “... That’s obviously not happening.”
Pierson said it’s not just about keeping himself safe, but also about ensuring at-risk community members are looked after.
“We want to prevent the spread of germs in general, especially to vulnerable members of the community,” Pierson said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reports at least 140,000 hospitalizations of flu cases every year. Some aspects of the flu and COVID-19 can present similar symptoms, such as respiratory illness. Both viruses can also be transmitted through contact and droplets, according to the World Health Organization.
Cloud said people should develop a plan to get the flu vaccine this season. People who regularly shop at a grocery or department store pharmacy should consider getting their flu shot there if they want to avoid doctors’ offices, Cloud said.
“Think of your flu vaccination as essential,” Cloud said. “Get it done early. Protect yourself and others during a time when we remain at risk for a coronavirus, which still has no cure and no vaccination.”