Officials with the “Drive Thru to Beat the Flu” clinic are hoping for a better turnout today at Kakaako Waterfront Park, where roughly 100 vehicles were lined up early Saturday morning before things slowed to a trickle by mid-morning.
The two-day drive-thru event is being held in anticipation of a busy flu season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
>> PHOTOS: Free flu shots given out at event in Kakaako
With all the pre-event publicity, “we were surprised that it’s not that busy because this year, because of COVID, it’s more critical that you get your flu vaccination,” said Cathy Lederer, director of the Hawaii State AFL-CIO Labor Community Services Program.
Lederer said they were prepared with 1,000 doses of flu vaccine for those without insurance and 1,000 doses for those with insurance. With or without insurance, the vaccinations are free.
There was no wait time for those who did turn out Saturday.
“It was so awesome,” exclaimed 3-year-old Noah Macaraya when asked about the experience. He shook his head “no” when asked if it hurt.
The Macaraya family drove up in their black Acura SUV, and after they completed the requisite paperwork, medical personnel surrounded the vehicle at every window and began the vaccinations.
Noah and his sisters Haylie, 13, and Nia, 10, and parents, Niro and Heidi Macaraya, both 42, were done within a matter of minutes.
“Normally we would have to go to three different doctors,” Heidi Macaraya said, commenting on the ease of not having to even find parking. “In and out basically, not even going out.”
Dr. Jill Omori, the city’s Infectious Disease Officer, said this year’s flu vaccine protects against two strains of influenza A, which includes H1N1, and two strains of influenza B.
COVID-19 and influenza symptoms are very similar, “so if you’ve been vaccinated against the flu, you’re much less likely to get the flu that might get mixed up as being COVID.”
“It would save you from having to get a nasal swab (coronavirus test) unnecessarily,” Omori said.
“Another reason why is that influenza can tie up a lot of resources,” she said. “So in a time of pandemic, when we’re really concerned about the health care resources that we have available, we really want the least amount of flu cases as possible because that’s what we can prevent. We can’t prevent COVID yet.
“So if we can prevent people from getting the flu with the vaccine, then we’ll save our health care resources for the people who really need it who have COVID.”
Omori, who is also director of the Office of Medical Education at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, explained why people should get vaccinated now: “In Hawaii our flu season lasts longer because we’re in a tropical area,” she said. “Some people get it later so it lasts longer. Others feel like if it’s already in the community, it’s better to get it now.”
She said the flu is already in the community, but not at “super high levels.”
In theory, with people observing social distancing and masking practices for COVID, there may be less spreading of the flu and perhaps a change in the pattern of spread.
The weekend vaccination clinic was made possible by a partnership between My Health Solutions and the state AFL-CIO Labor Community Services Program. Additional help was provided by sponsors Accredo, HMSA Hawaii, Lihue Pharmacy Group, Hawaii Medical College, Kaiser Permanente, JABSOM, the Hawaii HOME Project and the city.
Today’s clinic runs from 8 to 9 a.m. for those 65 years of age and older, and from 9 a.m. to noon for all at the Kakaako Waterfront Park parking lot on the makai side of Cooke Street.
Enter through the Ward Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard intersection.
>> Wear a face covering and be in a motor vehicle. No walkups will be accepted due to safety concerns for the workers involved, according to Lederer.
>> Have completed a flu shot questionnaire and consent form, available at bit.ly/3nbM8mh.
>> Bring a photocopy of a state-issued ID, school ID or birth certificate.
For those with insurance:
>> Bring a photocopy of medical insurance cards. Most insurance plans cover flu shots, but a copay may be necessary.
>> Medicare Advantage plan members must have their Medicare A/B cards and Advantage plan card.
>> If not the primary subscriber, the subscriber’s legal name, birthdate, gender and relationship must be provided.