The Louisiana Department of Health is always ready to meet the needs of the public in the event of a health emergency, such as pandemic flu, with coordinated plans that can be put into action at short notice. Among them is a plan to provide vaccinations or antiviral drugs to people around the state.
Not only does this help keep the Department ready for a worst-case scenario, but it allows LDH to provide vaccinations to people who may not otherwise have been able to get them.
Last fall, while testing its capabilities, LDH provided 3,480 flu vaccinations to people around the state, a 164% increase from the previous year when 1,313 shots were given. Additionally, LDH was able to expand its reach from 47 sites in 2018 to 26 sites and 22 parish health units in 2019. Those sites included a sports arena, a church and a state office building.
In central Louisiana, LDH went a step further in providing an easy way for people to get their flu shots.
Inspired by a longtime staple of the fast food industry, health officials set up driveways and parking lots to allow for drive-thru clinics. Patients rolled in, rolled up their sleeves for a shot and rolled out, making the process of getting a flu shot fast and convenient. More than 1,600 flu shots were given in the region, with the Rapides Parish Health Unit giving 684 vaccinations alone.
Dr. David Holcombe, regional medical director for central Louisiana, said the demand for vaccinations was so great that he had to drive to Natchitoches to get more vaccines after his team exhausted their own supplies.
Flu vaccines are still encouraged
The most recent reports from both the CDC and the Department of Health still show widespread flu activity in Louisiana. Dr. Frank Welch, immunization medical director for the Office of Public Health, advises that it is never too late to get a flu shot.
“Flu shots are available at any parish health unit at no cost to the patient. Also, local pharmacies, clinics, doctors’ offices and community health centers still have vaccines available,” Dr. Welch said. “With reports of widespread flu activity, a flu vaccine offers you, your family, friends and co-workers the best protection from getting sick from the flu.”
There’s even more incentive to get your flu shot this year: COVID-19, commonly called coronavirus. Flu and coronavirus are similar in that both are highly contagious respiratory illnesses spread by the droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, which are then inhaled by others.
However, the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19. It’s still extremely important to get your shot, though, and here’s why. If you don’t get your flu shot and you get the flu, your weakened immune system leaves your body more likely to become ill with other respiratory illnesses — like COVID-19.
For more information on how to protect you and your family from the flu or where to find a location to receive a flu vaccination near you, visit ldh.la.gov/FightTheFlu.