You’ve been hearing the advice for weeks, maybe months, now: Get your flu vaccine. Alaskans are encouraged to get it before the end of this month.
If you’ve missed one of the many flu vaccine clinics that already have been offered in and around Homer, you have the chance to get a free flu shot as part of the 37th annual Rotary Health Fair — thanks to SVT Health & Wellness. For several years, SVT Health & Wellness has partnered with the Rotary Club of Homer-Kachemak Bay to offer free flu shots during the big one-day Saturday event at Homer High School that’s been the culmination and highlight of the health fair.
In this year’s re-imagined health fair, SVT Health & Wellness will offer 200 free flu vaccines from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Homer United Methodist Church. There also are a limited number of high-dose vaccines available to those 65 and over. All vaccines are on a first-come, first-served basis.
The event is designed to keep everyone as COVID-safe as possible. Those participating will enter the church grounds at the entrance closest to SVT Health & Wellness and be directed to park in the church parking lot. They will then walk to the vaccine-dispensing area on the west side of the church property. If it sounds confusing, don’t worry — there will be people to direct both cars and humans. Everyone is asked to wear a mask.
Because the vaccines are being administered outside, people are asked to dress warmly, but in such a way that you can bare your upper arm without having to take off all your layers.
If you’ve been on the fence about whether flu vaccines are really helpful, here’s what Sherri Cox, supervising RN for SVT Health & Wellness, said to sway you: “They have proven to help prevent a person from getting the flu or to lessen the severity of the flu a person gets. That’s important because the flu can last for three weeks or longer. A person can really be wrung out by it — even a young, healthy person.”
The flu vaccine is even more important while we’re still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, because if you get the flu you’re more susceptible to other viruses — for example, coronavirus — while you’re trying to recover, Cox said. It can be a real double whammy for your system.
If you’re trying to weigh the risks vs. the benefits of the flu vaccine, Cox said the vaccine is a much less traumatic way to build your immune system than if you get the flu without the protection of a vaccine.
There are effects from the flu that can last a long time. For example, a nasty cough can cause you to strain your ribs and that can lead to a pulled muscle. It might sound like a relatively small thing, but it can hurt the quality of your day-to-day life, Cox said. A bout of diarrhea brought on by a case of flu also can be a pretty big hit to your system.
“What about you build some antibodies to this and then you’re ready for it,” she said.
The way to do that is by taking the vaccine.
It’s just not true that you can get the flu from the vaccine, Cox said. Some common reactions are a sore arm, a red welt at the vaccine site, a low-grade fever for 2r to 48 hours. Some people feel no effects.
The Centers for Disease Control notes that a vaccination is “the single best way to prevent seasonal flu.”
Healthy habits that are helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 also help prevent flu, according to the CDC. They include:
• Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Practice healthy habits such as cleaning frequently touched surfaces; getting plenty of sleep; exercising; managing stress; drinking lots of water; and eating nutritious food.
While the health fair’s free flu shot clinic looks different this year, it still remains a community-focused event.
“For many years, we’ve co-sponsored the free flu shots with the Rotary Health Fair. It’s an important collaboration for us,” said Emily Read, director of SVT Health & Wellness. “Our staff looks forward to this every year. It’s such a great opportunity to meet community members — and see our patients, as well as others.”
Reminder: The low-cost blood draws that are a centerpiece of the health fair are happening now. Appointments are available 7:30-10:30 a.m. Monday-Friday through Oct. 30 and Nov. 4-6. Register now at rotaryhealthfair.org. There are no walk-in appointments. All appointments and payments are online. If you need help making an appointment, call the Health Fair Hotline at 907-399-3158. To ensure a space, make sure you book your appointment now.