Flu shots offered through programs across Tulsa in push to get vaccinations amid continuing pandemic

In the next chapter of 2020 complications, flu season is coming to Tulsa alongside the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In the next chapter of 2020 complications, flu season is coming to Tulsa alongside the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Although a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t available yet, area medical professionals are making a determined push this fall to get the public vaccinated against the flu. Those efforts began in earnest Tuesday with a flu shot clinic and food distribution event in north Tulsa through Ascension St. John.

Tuesday’s event at OSU-Tulsa’s campus parking lot teamed the hospital network with Food on the Move for a drive-thru flu shot and food bank for underinsured and uninsured adults.

Liz Bell, the director of operations for primary care and cardiology for Ascension Medical Group, said the clinic and more like it on the way are part of continued efforts to improve public health.

Bell said an already important flu shot is critical this flu season for the same reason many have stayed home for days and weeks on end: protecting others.

“We believe that vaccination from flu helps protect other vulnerable populations,” Bell said. “Kids are going to daycare, or adults with multiple medical issues might be exposed to the flu. So the more people who are vaccinated, the better our community outcomes will be.”

The Tulsa Health Department will also offer vaccinations by appointment at four locations, with no out-of-pocket cost for most patients, with everyone over the age of 6 months recommended for the vaccine.

COVID-19 came to Oklahoma in force in mid-March, when Bell said the state was in the tail end of last year’s flu season. Priscilla Haynes, Tulsa Health Department Division Chief of Preventive Health, said in a news release the vaccine is a vital tool not only in preventing the flu’s spread, but also making it less severe for those who contract it.

“It is possible to have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time,” Haynes said. “Flu and COVID-19 can both result in serious illness, including illness resulting in hospitalization or death. The flu vaccine can keep you from getting the flu, make the illness less severe if you do get it and keep you from spreading the virus to family and other people.”

The vast changes in people’s lives nationwide since then has made normal flu forecasting much less concrete, and Bell said there’s good reason to avoid being an eventual statistic with both illnesses at play.

With great overlap between those most at risk from COVID-19 and the flu, Bell said the hope is that fewer flu cases means fewer hospitalizations, potential exposures to COVID-19 and keep capacity for the sickest patients.

“Our goal is that if we are able to prevent one illness and somebody were to get sick from COVID, then perhaps that would decrease poor health outcomes from COVID,” Bell said. “It’s a known measure that we have to try to prevent hospitalization and prevent illness.

“Since we don’t have that for COVID, we think this is a way you can protect yourself from one of the illnesses.”

Tuesday’s clinic was the first of five through the end of October, with the next 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 8 at Catholic Charities, 2450 N. Harvard Ave. Others follow on Oct. 10 at Church That Matters in Sand Springs, and two on Oct. 24 at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Sapulpa and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in east Tulsa. Masks will be required for attendees.

The clinic’s drive-thru format is not only for convenience’s sake, but also to keep participants safe. Bell said data shows the pandemic has led many to postpone what she called regular health maintenance, things like mammograms, colonoscopies and diabetic management visits.

Bell said getting a flu vaccination is an easy and empowering way to protect yourself and others as temperatures drop, and to feel confident in health-care providers’ efforts to prevent COVID-19’s spread.

“We just really want to encourage folks to not avoid routine preventative medical care, and we believe immunization is included in that,” Bell said. “We just want to reiterate that it’s safe in our settings of care for people to get that routine care, and to take advantage of things like drive-thru clinics and our colleagues at other health-care systems are offering.”

Flu shots offered through programs across Tulsa in push to get vaccinations amid continuing pandemic |