Flu clinics good practice for potential COVID-19 vaccine clinics

WESTFIELD- The Health Department will be hosting drive-through flu clinics in the coming months to both vaccinate residents ahead of a likely intense flu season and to practice for a potential coronavirus vaccine clinic. 

There are two upcoming clinics at the Westfield Senior Center in October, which Health Director Joseph Rouse said are completely booked already with an active waiting list. The city received $4,200 from the state to conduct such clinics. The only catch is that the state money cannot be used to purchase the vaccine itself. Rouse said that the vaccine has already been ordered, so that is not an issue.

“We will use the money to get additional equipment. We will have an electronic tracking system that we will use instead of physical paperwork,” said Rouse during the Sept. 9 remote Westfield Board of Health meeting. 

Westfield Board of Health nurse Debra Mulvenna applies a band-aid to a senior citizen during a past flu shot clinic at the Westfield Council on Aging. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS PHOTO)

The Senior Center clinics will be a drive-through with little-to-no face-to-face interaction. Forty seniors will be vaccinated in each of the two clinics at the Senior Center. Rouse said he wants to experiment to see if they can get all 40 people through the line in an hour.

“If we can’t do 40 people in an hour, we are in big trouble if we have to do 30,000 people,” said Rouse.

The Medical Reserve Corps will be assisting with the clinics and the Westfield Police Department will assist with traffic due to the drive-through nature of the clinics. 

Flu clinics for the police and fire departments are also planned. In those cases, Rouse said that it is likely that the officers and firefighters will be able to go to the Health Department office and get vaccinated in groups of “cohorts.”

This year’s flu season is expected to be worse than in years past, especially due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control advises that it is possible to be infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could be far deadlier than having one or the other. 

Luckily, Rouse said much of the same advice that has been given about limiting the spread of COVID-19 also applies to influenza: Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and social distancing are all effective at limiting the spread of the flu.

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