White Hall resident Lee Samuels said he had never received a flu shot until the recent mass flu clinic sponsored by the Jefferson County Health Unit.
Samuels just turned 70 and said he is worried about contracting the flu as he ages, even though he has always been healthy.
“When you hit a certain age, your mindset changes,” Samuels said. “You really have to start taking all the precautions that you can.”
The Jefferson County Health Unit held its annual mass flu shot clinic from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 to provide Jefferson County residents with free flu vaccinations.
After years of conducting the clinic at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, this year was the first year the clinic was held at the health unit’s 2306 Riker Drive location, according to Jefferson County Health Unit Administrator Angela Parker.
Due to major pharmacies like Walmart and Walgreens running their own flu shot clinics in recent years, Parker said the number of patients they receive during this clinic has declined.
Parker mentioned that before she began working for the Jefferson County Health Unit, around 1,000 people would show up to receive their annual flu shot. Last year, 220 residents participated in the clinic, which is nearly half the amount of the 400 people who participated the previous year.
Regardless, Parker recommends that everyone visit the health unit at any time during the flu season to get their flu vaccine amid some warnings that the flu virus is expected to be worse this year than in previous ones.
“I don’t really know what it’s going to be like,” said LaKesha Webb-Collins, clinic coordinator.
“What I do know is we need to get everyone vaccinated or as many people as we possibly can to prevent the spread of the flu. And just kind of let people know that even though you get the flu shot you won’t get the flu, there are some misconceptions about how you contract the flu ... and what our goal is, is to prevent the spread of the flu and make sure as many people are vaccinated as possible.”
According to Webb-Collins, the health department goes beyond the flu shot clinic to reach residents. On a calendar of upcoming events, there are a number of schools, factories, businesses and similar entities that will experience their own on-campus clinics free of charge.
“We want to get the word out that the flu is not bad,” Webb-Collins said. “It can be bad if you haven’t been vaccinated. That can prevent you from getting a deadly version of the flu.”
A few flu prevention practices recommend washing hands regularly and making sure all members of a family are vaccinated. According to Webb-Collins, this is particularly important when it comes to school children who may come in contact with classmates who are not vaccinated or are sick.
Children as young as six months are encouraged to get the flu shot, and it is recommended for most adults who do not have egg allergies or have had bad reactions to flu shots in the past.
Webb-Collins recommends paying the health unit a visit to discuss flu concerns with nurses who are available on a walk-in basis for anyone who may be skeptical.
As for Samuels, he said he plans to get a flu shot every year from here on out.
“As long as I’m alive and kicking,” he said, laughing.