Local health experts push flu shots

Melissa Fisher, Loudon County Health Department office manager, left, receives a flu shot from Judy Hurst, health department nursing coordinator.

With flu season near and the coronavirus prevalent, area health care experts are urging residents to take preventative measures to stay healthy and safe.

At the Loudon County Health Department, every patient is offered a flu shot from the safety of their vehicle. Plans are to also hold a drive-by flu shot event 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 19 at the health department.

Teresa Harrill, county health department director, hopes to hold a similar event Nov. 9 for students and parents much like the COVID-19 testing process.

“They won’t even have to get out of their car,” she said. “For the population that’s familiar with how we’ve been COVID testing, which is a lot … if they’re familiar with that process, we will have the local police, and they’ll be able to direct the traffic. It’ll be interesting to see how many folks we have show up. Last year we did it, but we didn’t have COVID. We didn’t have a very good turnout.”

Harrill hopes to use the effort as a test run for how COVID-19 vaccines will be administered.

She urges residents to continue taking regular medications for known conditions such as chronic issues with sinuses.

Joe Nowell, Fresh Pharmacy owner and pharmacist, believes “prevention is the best medicine.”

Nowell has seen a heightened demand for high-dosage flu shots, which were typically administered to patients 65 years or older with underlying diseases. Almost every patient he’s seen in that demographic now requests the high-dosage shot.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had people wearing masks and washing their hands and social distancing,” Nowell said. “Theoretically, it should be our best flu season ever, but we’ll see.”

The increased demand for flu shots and prevention will help health care workers determine illnesses in the coming months.

“You’re kind of taking flu out of the mixture,” Nowell said. “If you do get sick, it’s like, well, is it pneumonia, COVID or a basic head cold? It just takes one of the four out of the picture in those cases, and if you’ve been inoculated against pneumonia, then those two are out of the picture.”

Adding deaths from flu with deaths from COVID-19 will make the coming months challenging, Harrill said.

“Then you’ve got a lot of naysayers on that, ‘I don’t get a flu shot because it makes me sick.’ There’s no scientific evidence that supports a flu shot makes you sick,” she said. “Your arm might be a little sore. Everybody’s different. We’re encouraging everybody get a flu shot just so we can help slow that spread on top of all this other because our numbers are increasing. It’s not like this is going away, unfortunately.”

Nowell and Harrill agree masks are key in the coming months.

“There’s a lot of people that say masks don’t work,” Harrill said. “… But it’s a protection. I’m protecting you from me, and you’re protecting me from you. We’re protecting each other. People need to still continue, especially when they go into areas like stores. We’re hitting on the holiday season. People will be shopping. That just gives me the shakes because when you go into a store, think of all the things you touch.”