Drive-through flu shot clinic Saturday in Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury

Drive-through flu shot clinic Saturday in Oak Bluffs, West Tisbury

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This year's flu clinic will be drive through only. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Islanders don’t even have to get out of their cars this Saturday, October 26, to get free flu shots at the All-Island Seasonal Flu Immunization Clinic, from 9 am to noon. Unlike years past, the clinic will not be held at the regional high school. Instead, all shots will be administered at two drive-through sites, the West Tisbury School and Waban Park in Oak Bluffs, which was previously used as a staging area.

The clinic is open to adults and high school students only, because younger children require different dosages. Although vaccinations are free of charge and do not require medical insurance, participants are requested to bring Medicare and/or other health insurance information and cards, along with a completed vaccine administration form and screening questionnaire, to the drive-through clinic sites and to wear a short-sleeved shirt.

Registration forms are available at town halls, the Councils on Aging, libraries, and pharmacies. More information is available online at the Dukes County website at dukescounty.org.

Superintendent of schools James Weiss, a volunteer at the clinic for several years, said the planning group has been meeting since early September to get everything in place.

“The reason we shifted to an all drive-through clinic is that in addition to being a flu clinic, it is also an exercise for the Island in preparing for an epidemic or pandemic,” Mr. Weiss said. “The drive-through vaccination is better in a contagious illness situation, so that people don’t have to get out of their cars and go into a building, which can spread germs. So it made sense not to have the clinic at the high school, but to use the same staging area, Waban Park, as one of the drive-through sites.”

Influenza (flu) is a disease of the body’s respiratory system, including the nose, throat, and lungs. Seasonal flu outbreaks can happen at any time, but most cases occur from October through May, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.

The most common symptoms are fever, cough, muscle aches, and sore throat, which can last from a few days to a week or more. Flu can also lead to pneumonia and make existing medical conditions worse. Flu can make some people sicker than others. Young children, elderly people, and pregnant women are at greater risk of getting the flu.

Flu vaccine is the best protection from flu and its complications, and also helps prevent its spread, the CDC advises. Last January, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported the 2013 flu season was the strongest seen in the state and nationally in several years.

In December 2012, doctors at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) diagnosed 31 cases of the flu and admitted three patients to the hospital. Hospital chief quality officer Dedie Wieler said a review of Island flu cases revealed that approximately half of those treated had not had a flu shot.

This year’s All-Island clinic is sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Medical Reserve Corps, the six Island towns’ boards of health, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Vineyard Nursing Association, and Wampanoag Tribal Health Services, with support from the Island Councils on Aging, Dukes County government, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and town police departments, Emergency Medical Services, and Emergency Managers.