Free flu shot clinic launches Carilion mobile health outreach initiative

Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 5:32 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Department of Health is urging everyone to get their flu shots this year because of the pandemic. And Carilion Clinic is making it easier than ever to do just that.

With the help of a spiffy new van, Carilion has started a mobile health outreach initiative to bring healthcare to the community.

“And it was perfect timing for the vaccine season because our strategy this year was to be neighborhood-based," community health workforce supervisor Cris Sheffield said. "We wanted to make it easy for people and go where people already are.”

Thursday, the Carilion team set up at the Presbyterian Community Center on Jamison Ave. in Roanoke offering free flu shots to adults 18+.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to have a mobile outreach,” Sheffield said.

Hoping to entice the occasional passerby, David Dickey is the “free flu shot foam noodle waver extraordinaire.”

“First, I’ll do this and try to get them to park," Dickey demonstrated. "And then I’ll point to the sign or a variation of that.”

Carilion is hosting free flu shot events four times a week between now and the end of October across many of our hometowns. Since the program started a couple weeks ago, they’ve already given out more than 300 flu shots.

“And just for perspective, last year we gave more free vaccines to the community than we ever had and it was right at 300," Sheffield said. "And we’re already there and we’re just a couple of weeks in. So people are getting the vaccine and the message is getting out there.”

And WDBJ7′s Katey Roshetko can personally attest to just how easy it was to get a shot at one of these free clinics. After shooting this story, even she was able to get her vaccine, no insurance, no ID necessary.

WDBJ7's Katey Roshetko gets a free flu shot at one of the Carilion mobile health pop-up clinics.
WDBJ7's Katey Roshetko gets a free flu shot at one of the Carilion mobile health pop-up clinics.(WDBJ7)

“We also understand that people are really busy and it’s really important to get the flu shot this year," Sheffield said. “It’s always important, but within the context of COVID, it’s more important than ever.”

Because flu and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, reducing the spread of the flu is key.

“The thing is with both COVID and flu, the best thing we can do is prevention," she explained. "And we do have a flu shot. We don’t have a COVID vaccine just yet.”

While there are many factors why people don’t get their flu shot, a common misconception is getting sick after getting their shot.

“Which it is true that sometimes you can feel a little mildly ill, but that’s the body’s immune response to the vaccine not that they’re actually getting the flu," Sheffield said.

Like any shot, there may also be a little tenderness in your arm for a couple of days.

“It’s well tolerated and has very few side effects so it’s a very relatively safe thing to do," she said.

And health officials hope that the more people get vaccinated for the flu the less severe this flu season will be.

“My biggest hope for flu season is that [with] a lot of the precautions and the things we’ve been putting into place that people are listening," Sheffield said. "And that we will be able to keep it down and keep it pretty good so that we don’t complicate it with COVID and the pandemic we’re already dealing with.”

According to the VDH website, “Flu season generally peaks in December and January and it is important to be vaccinated before the flu begins to spread. Since it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccination to provide protection, the CDC recommends getting your flu shot before the end of October.”

Here is a list of all the remaining Carilion Clinic free flu shot events across our hometowns.

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