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County: Flu Vaccine is Vital ‘This Season, More than Ever,’ As COVID Rages

COVID cases in the United States are surging for a second time at an alarming rate, putting stress on local hospitals and healthcare officials, and this all comes as the normal influenza season begins to ramp up.

Imperial County Public Health Department staff prepare to administer flu vaccine during a drive-through vaccination clinic on Oct. 31 at the Imperial Valley Fairgrounds in Imperial. A second drive-through clinic is planned for Saturday, Nov. 21, at the same location. | PHOTO COURTESY OF IMPERIAL COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT

Although not a great deal seems to be known about the impact of COVID and influenza in tandem, Imperial County Public Health officials are stressing the need to get vaccinated.

“This season, more than ever, the flu vaccine is important, because flu and COVID appear similar,” county Public Health Officer, Dr. Stephen Munday, said, in that they both are respiratory illnesses that can present much the same way.

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What’s more, Munday said during a weekly report to the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 17, is that information gleaned from the recently wrapped flu season in the Southern Hemisphere revealed patients who contract both COVID-19 and influenza in the same season are in for a “rocky course.”

In terms of how the flu can also affect resources already stretched thin by COVID, El Centro Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Adolphe Edward mentioned during a press conference recently that his hospital is seeing both the impact of a resurgent coronavirus and seasonal influenza.

County Public Health officials will be staging the second and final free drive-through flu vaccination clinic on Saturday morning, Nov. 21, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Imperial Valley Fairgrounds parking lot in Imperial.

The clinic, which is for patients 6 months and older, was initially scheduled for Nov. 7, but was postponed to due to high winds that day. During the first clinic, on Oct. 31, county officials administered more than 1,300 doses of the vaccine.

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It wasn’t immediately clear how severe this year’s strain of flu is or how widespread it is locally. A county Public Health spokesperson said Wednesday morning, Nov. 18, that the season’s first influenza/respiratory illness report was to be posted to the department’s website later in the day, which was passed this newspaper’s print deadline.

County’s Flu Vaccination Program

This year, the county Public Health Department received around 7,700 doses of flu vaccine from the state to both administer to the public and distribute to various healthcare providers in the community, Director Jeanette Angulo recently shared with the county board.

Those doses do not come in all at once, she said; rather, they come in “small allocations” and “we’re still pending shipments,” Angulo reported Nov. 10.

Although fewer than 8,000 doses were received, the health department fielded requests from healthcare providers for some 12,170 doses of the vaccine.

Angulo added that a limited amount was distributed to Clinicas De Salud Del Pueblo, Dr. Tien Vo, Dr. Vincent Soun, Calexico Wellness Center, Unicare, Imperial Manor, and Valley Convalescent Center.

Fortunately, Angulo said, a new federally funded program through the state allowed providers to directly get their vaccine through that program, instead of going through public health.

Rows of cars wait during the first of two Imperial County Public Health Department drive-through vaccination clinics on Oct. 31 at the Imperial Valley Fairgrounds in Imperial. The second drive-through clinic is planned for Saturday, Nov. 21, at the same location. Some 1,300 residents received the flu shot during the Oct. 31 clinic. | PHOTO COURTESY OF IMPERIAL COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT

This story is featured in the Nov 19, 2020 e-Edition.