Updated COVID-19 Boosters Approved

Updated COVID-19 boosters can both help restore protection that has decreased since previous vaccination, and provide broader protection against newer variants. The updated, or bivalent boosters, target the most recent Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, that are more contagious and more resistant than earlier strains of Omicron. The new updated COVID-19 boosters can be administered in Oregon now that the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup has recommended the vaccine, completing final step in the review and approval process following recommendations from the FDA and CDC.

The CDC is recommending updated COVID boosters, for people ages 12 and older. People are eligible if it’s been at least two months since they received their last COVID vaccine, either a booster or an initial dose.

The boosters can be administered regardless of which vaccine series a person received. Pfizer’s updated booster is available for anyone 12 and older. The Moderna booster is available for anyone 18 and older.

“If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in an interview with NPR.

The new boosters should be available in Malheur County this week. The Malheur County Health Department will have news out soon with increased availability for both boosters and first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. Call our office at 541-889-7279, your local healthcare provider, or pharmacy, to check availability and make an appointment, if available. Find local vaccine providers here.

Malheur County still lags behind every other county except Lake in Oregon for protection against COVID-19 and continues to be the only county in the High Community Level of risk due to recent outbreaks. The best way to prevent serious COVID-19 illness is to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

Invest in Yourself with Health is Wealth Program

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) has a new incentive program, Health is Wealth, to increase recommended surveillance testing, immunization, and awareness of public health services. People can walk in or call MCHD at 541-889-7279 to schedule time for testing, vaccine, and short informative sessions with staff. Participants will receive a Health is Wealth card that will keep track of their progress through 10 core programs. Upon completion, the first 100 participants will receive a $100 gift card.  

The goal is for people to experience public health as an important part of their healthcare, get to know staff, and connect the people in their lives to available services.

Eligibility: Health is Wealth program participants must be 18 years old or older. Participants must be present to receive services, complete paperwork, and present the completed card to MCHD front desk to receive gift card. The Health is Wealth card must be started by June 30, 2023. One hundred gift cards are available and once that supply is exhausted, there is no guarantee a gift card will be provided.

Requirements: Participants must receive a stamp for each of the 10 programs, from MCHD employees on the Health is Wealth card, within 12 months of the start date on card. Immunizations must be up to date, as verified in the Oregon or Idaho immunization registries. Participants must receive testing for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis C, chlamydia and gonorrhea, or have record of tests within the last 12 months. Participants must schedule and complete short educational sessions with each program to receive a stamp.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends all adults get tested for hepatitis C and that everyone should be tested for HIV at least once in their life, regardless of risk factors. With climbing rates of communicable disease, more testing is needed to identify infections, many of show no symptoms. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer, however, with treatment, hepatitis C infection is curable. Early detection can save your life. Cases of HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea are also going up in Malheur County. Testing can give people peace of mind and more information about their overall health.

Along with increased testing, the Health is Wealth program aims to get more adults up to date on recommended vaccines. Immunizations are not just for children. Protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time. You may also be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to your age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. All adults need immunizations to help them prevent getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in poor health, missed work, medical bills, and not being able to care for family.

Public health promotes the wellbeing of the entire population of Malheur County and helps to ensure access to safe and quality care. Public health is for everyone! Visit malheurhealth.org or call 541-889-7279 for more information.

MCHD at the Malheur County Fair

The 2022 Malheur County Fair is happening this week, August 2nd through 6th, with the theme of “Just for the Fun of It!” We are proud to be part of one of the county’s best family-friendly events. Come visit our booth in the Commercial Building all week and be sure to stop by on Friday and Saturday for the special COVID-19 vaccine booth near ours. Vaccines available 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. for ages 6 months and older. $25 gift cards for every dose received. Download the flyer here.

Vaccination of Malheur County Health Care Workers Continues

In coming weeks, most of Malheur County’s health care workers, as well as long-term care facility employees and residents, will have had an opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19. As more vaccine becomes available, health care workers will be followed by our community’s other essential workers and people age 75 and older. The general population is expected to have access to the vaccine sometime in spring 2021.

The Malheur County Health Department is working with community partners to ensure that everyone in our community who wants the vaccine will be able to get it. Distribution plans are under way, and we are confident that widespread vaccination will ultimately enable us to return to our normal way of life.

COVID-19 vaccines have been evaluated extensively in large-scale clinical trials that involved adults from a diverse and inclusive range of races, ethnicities and ages. The vaccines that are currently available have been found to be 95% effective after two doses, given about three to four weeks apart.

As we prepare to open vaccination PODS in Malheur County, we are relying on the research and results from COVID-19 vaccine trials to provide answers to some commonly asked questions, which are addressed below by the Centers for Disease Control. We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

Should I get vaccinated for COVID-19? It is strongly recommended that you do. The vaccine will help protect you from getting COVID-19. If you still get infected after you get vaccinated, the vaccine may prevent serious illness. By getting vaccinated, you can also help protect people around you.

Can the vaccine give me COVID-19? No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use or in development in the United States use the live virus that causes COVID-19. However, it typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and get sick.

If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated? Yes. CDC recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can catch it more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection will last.

Can my child get vaccinated for COVID-19? No. More studies need to be conducted before COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for children aged 16 and younger.

Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition? Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying health problems like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and obesity. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19.

Is it better to get natural immunity to COVID-19 rather than immunity from a vaccine? No. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we don’t know how long this protection lasts. Vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe. People who get COVID-19 can have serious illnesses, and some have debilitating symptoms that persist for months.

Why do I need two COVID-19 shots? Currently authorized vaccines, and most vaccines under development, require two doses of vaccine. The first shot helps the immune system recognize the virus, and the second shot strengthens the immune response. You need both to get the best protection.

Will the shot hurt or make me sick? There may be side effects, but they should go away within a few days. Possible side effects include a sore arm, headache, fever, or body aches. This does not mean you have COVID-19. Side effects are signs that the vaccine is working to build immunity. If they don’t go away in a week, or you have more serious symptoms, call your doctor.

Are there long-term side effects from COVID-19 vaccine? Because all COVID-19 vaccines are new, it will take more time and more people getting vaccinated to learn about very rare or possible long-term side effects. The good news is, at least 8 weeks’ worth of safety data were gathered in the clinical trials for all the authorized vaccines, and it’s unusual for vaccine side effects to appear more than 8 weeks after vaccination.

How do I know if COVID-19 vaccine is safe? All COVID-19 vaccines were tested in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people to make sure they meet safety standards and protect adults of different ages, races, and ethnicities. There were no serious safety concerns. CDC and the FDA will keep monitoring the vaccines to look for safety issues after they are authorized and in use.

How do I report problems or bad reactions after getting a COVID-19 vaccine? All recipients who receive the vaccine are encouraged to enroll in v-safe. This is a smartphone tool you can use to tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. If you report serious side effects, someone from CDC will call to follow up. During your vaccination visit, you will be given instructions on how to enroll.

The first COVID-19 vaccine doses have arrived in Oregon.

Oregon confirms first COVID vaccines have arrived
State kicks off massive immunization campaign as health facilities begin receiving new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

The first COVID-19 vaccine doses have arrived in Oregon. Legacy Health is the first registered COVID-19 vaccine provider in the state to receive the vaccine, made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. The health system’s Holladay Park site in Portland and Meridian Park site in Tualatin each took delivery of one package of 975 doses today at around 7 a.m.

Additional doses are expected at three other locations in Oregon this week: Oregon Health & Science University Pharmacy, Kaiser Permanente’s Airport Way Center in Portland, and St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario also are each expected to receive 975-dose packages of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The remaining 30,225 Pfizer vaccine doses from this week’s allocation of 35,100 dose for Oregon will arrive at hospitals throughout the rest of the week, with 10,725 doses going to skilled nursing facilities for vaccinations that start next week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Oregon to choose the initial sites as a way to test the system that providers around the state are using to order the vaccine.

The shipments follow a U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision on Friday to issue an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was found in Phase 3 clinical trials to be 95% effective and, in most people, cause only mild to moderate, short-lived side effects.

“In recent weeks, as COVID-19 vaccines reached the final stages of approval, I have said time and again that hope is on the way. Today, I can tell you that help is here,” said Governor Kate Brown. “The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Oregon, the first of many that will be distributed across the state. Starting with the frontline health care workers who have been our first line of defense against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and the long-term care facility residents who are among the most vulnerable, each day, more and more Oregonians will be vaccinated against this disease.

“Throughout the process, we will work to ensure that the Oregonians that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including those from Black, Indigenous, Latino/Latina/Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Tribal communities, have equitable access to vaccination. We are in the middle of some of the hardest days of this pandemic. Our hospitals are stretched to capacity, and too many families are losing loved ones just as we enter the holiday season. So many Oregonians have suffered and sacrificed in the last 10 months.

“But starting this week, and each week following — as vaccines become more widely available — we will begin gaining ground again in our fight against this disease.”

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen emphasized that vaccinations against COVID-19 are still months away for most Oregonians, so vigilance in practicing basic prevention measures — wearing masks, physical distancing, avoiding gatherings, staying home if sick — must continue.

“The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, but we will be in this tunnel for several months,” he said. “We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing to help our friends, neighbors and ourselves stay safe.”

Kathryn Correia, chief executive officer of Legacy Health, said, “The safe and equitable distribution and administration of vaccines will take all of us in the health care community working together with public health officials to accomplish the task before us. On behalf of our entire Legacy Health team, we pledge our continued partnership and commitment to this effort.”

Most Oregon hospitals and health systems that registered as vaccine provider sites are expected to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next two weeks. Follow-up shipments are anticipated on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29. In addition, a vaccine manufactured by Moderna Inc., which has not yet received FDA emergency use authorization, also are scheduled for delivery in Oregon on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.

In all, public health officials anticipate there will be enough of the two vaccines to provide first doses to about 100,000 people, with second doses following in January.

Becky Hultberg, president and chief executive officer of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS), called the arrival of the first doses “fantastic news.”

“As for who receives these first doses,” she said, “we strongly support putting our frontline health care workers at the top of the list. We need to take care of them, so they can take care of us. It’s what they always do, putting the patient first.”

Health officials say that outlook will be borne out in the first phase of the statewide vaccination effort, with health care workers, particularly those at highest risk of direct exposure to COVID-19 in their work — hospital employees, emergency medical services personnel, as well as long-term care facility employees and residents — getting the first doses. Essential workers, followed by people with underlying health conditions and those older than 65 are next in line as they are identified by OHA’s equity-focused Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Priority groups in Phase 2 will be determined at a later time. The general population isn’t expected to be eligible for vaccination until sometime in spring 2021.

The state vaccination distribution plan rollout is happening in tandem with a federal effort that is partnering with pharmacy companies CVS, Walgreens and Consonus Healthcare to offer on-site, no-cost COVID-19 vaccines to more than 680 long-term care facilities in Oregon. The first three weeks of the operation, which starts Dec. 21, will see 22,425 vaccine doses going to skilled nursing facilities and 80,000 doses headed to assisted living facilities.

Stay informed about COVID-19:

Free Rapid COVID-19 Testing Today in Ontario

Coronavirus testing: Coming to a drugstore, urgent care, living room near  you – Orange County Register

Valley Family Health Care is offering free rapid COVID-19 testing today, November 11th, from 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. in the BiMart parking lot (2283 SW 4th Ave, Ontario, OR 97914). Self swab, NO PAIN, easy tests. Drive through or walk up. Wear your mask!

Malheur County Health Department has partnered with VFHC to expand testing availability and accessibility. Please support these efforts and get tested.

Flu Vaccine 101: Pandemic Edition

Call your health care provider or the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279 to schedule your free or low cost flu vaccine for everyone in your home over 6 months of age.

The following recent article from practicing family physician, Gretchen LaSalle, is a great overview of why the flu shot is so important this year.

#ShowUsYourShot

Yep! It’s that time of year again. As Fall approaches, influenza is knocking on the door… but this flu season promises to be far from typical. We are already smack dab in the middle of a pandemic. COVID19 has devastated lives and livelihoods and there is no quick or easy end in sight. Now add to that the potential for just a run-of-the-mill flu season, where millions are infected, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and tens of thousands die. If we don’t handle this perfect storm of infectious diseases properly, we risk further overwhelming our medical system and seeing unnecessary loss of life and enormous costs to society. PREVENTION has never been more important! So, read on for your yearly tutorial. It’s Flu Vaccine 101: Pandemic Edition!

This time of year we medical providers spend hours upon hours working to get our patients vaccinated against the flu. We KNOW the terrible consequences it causes. But we not uncommonly encounter folks who mistakenly think that the flu is no big deal. Some have heard faulty information from friends, family or on the Internet where untruths “go viral”, spreading rapidly and with ease, leading to the unfortunate decision not to vaccinate.

If you are one of those folks considering not getting a flu vaccine this year, PLEASE read on. I’m about to let you in on some facts and fictions about the flu shot that may change your mind about this life-saving vaccine. Getting the flu vaccine this year will be MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER!

But first… a little clarification about the influenza virus.

Electron microscopy of influenza virus

This 1975 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a group of H3N2 influenza A virus virions.

Every day I get folks telling me that they got the flu shot but that they were “sicker that year than ever before”. The flu shot was never meant to be a one stop shop for preventing illness. There are numerous other viruses out there that can cause a flu-like illness that are not the flu.

Here is what true influenza looks like. It comes on suddenly. One day you’re fine. The next day it feels like you were hit by a truck. Your whole body hurts. You have a high fever, cough, headache, sore throat, and fatigue. It lasts, typically, a week. Unless, of course, you have complications of the flu that may linger longer.

Also, the “stomach flu” is NOT the flu. This is a viral stomach bug. Only occasionally does a person with the flu have vomiting (maybe a little more common in kids than adults) and diarrhea is not part of the picture. If you’ve got vomiting and diarrhea, you’ve got something else and the flu shot doesn’t help with that – I wish it did. I HATE vomiting!

Now, unfortunately, COVID19 can look exactly the same way… or not. It behaves so differently for different people. As we get into flu season, if people aren’t vaccinated against the flu, it is going to be EXTREMELY difficult to tell which respiratory illness you have. And when we can’t tell (knowing that our tests for both flu and SARS-CoV-2 have notable limitations), we will have to default to quarantining anyone with possible COVID-like symptoms. Limiting the number of people infected with the flu will make life at least a little bit simpler for those doctors and nurses trying to take care of people this fall and winter; not to mention for those of us just trying to get on with living our lives as normally as possible. And getting a flu shot can keep you out of the doctor’s office, urgent care, or ER, places you could come into contact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus!

Ok, now let’s look at some fictions about the flu shot.

Fiction #1: “The flu shot causes the flu.”

This, my friends, is false. The flu shot is a killed virus vaccine and, as such, cannot cause the illness it is meant to protect against. It’s a different story for the influenza nasal spray vaccine. The nasal spray version uses a live-attenuated or weakened form of the flu virus. It should not be given to anyone with a suppressed immune system because it could give them influenza.

“But I felt so cruddy after the shot. It must have made me sick.”

Scenario #1: It is not uncommon to feel a bit under the weather after the flu shot – or any shot, for that matter. A bit of achiness, mild fatigue, even low grade fever is considered a normal response and is just your body’s immune system kicking into gear. It is NOT the flu. Trust me. The flu is much worse.

Scenario #2: It takes 2 weeks before the flu shot even works and it is possible to be exposed to and contract the flu in that 2 weeks when you are not yet protected. This is why it is SO important to get your flu shot in the early fall. That way, by the time we see the flu in the winter months, your immune system is ready for the fight.

Fiction #2: “The flu shot doesn’t really work.”

Au contraire, mon frere. Even though the flu shot is the “best guess” for what strains will be circulating that year and is not always spot on, it still protects you from serious complications of the flu (like hospitalization and death).

The Northern and Southern Hemisphere flu seasons are exactly opposite of each other. We look to the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season to try to predict what is heading our way. Some years’ guesses are better than others but that doesn’t mean the vaccine is not worth getting. We know this from looking at data regarding people who died from the flu.

The CDC looked at all of the pediatric deaths during the 2012-2013 flu season and found that 90% of these deaths had been in children not vaccinated for the flu. And since the flu vaccine was introduced in 1938, whether entirely causally related or not, we have not seen a flu pandemic such as the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed nearly 50 million people. The flu vaccine works. Moving on.

Fiction #3: “I’m Healthy. I don’t need a flu shot. I’ll get over it.”

Well, maybe. But even healthy people have serious complications from the flu like pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death. It is true that those with chronic illness, the elderly, babies, and pregnant women are at greatest risk. But remember those children who died in 2012-2013 from the flu? 40% of those kids had absolutely NO chronic illness or other risks for serious complications.

And so what if you are healthy and you do get over it? What about all of those around you? What about those you come into contact with out in the world? Shouldn’t we try to protect each other and keep each other healthy as well? You. Yes, you. You are contagious for approximately 2 days before you even have one symptom. And there you are, out there in the world touching things, shaking people’s hands (well, maybe not anymore since COVID), and spreading germs that you don’t even know you have.

Now, imagine this…. What if you got COVID19 AND the flu at the same time? It has happened. No matter how healthy you are, this would be a disaster.

Fiction #4: “I prefer to get my immunity naturally.”

Nope. It doesn’t work that way with the flu. The flu strains change each year. Having the flu one year does not prevent you from getting the flu the next year.

Fiction #5: “I can’t get the flu shot. I have an egg allergy.”

Good news! Those recommendations have changed. As of the 2016-17 flu season, the CDC now recommends the flu shot for everyone, even those allergic to eggs. If you can eat cooked eggs without difficulty or have a milder version of an egg allergy, you can get a flu shot at any location. If you have a serious egg allergy (stopping breathing, repeated vomiting, etc.), you can still get the flu vaccine but have to have it administered by a physician who can recognize and respond to a severe allergic reaction.

And if you just can’t get past the worry about an egg-allergy reaction, there are two vaccines available (Flucelvax, for ages 4+,  and Flublok, for ages 18+) which are not produced using chicken eggs. So, no excuses. Get out there and get your flu shot!

We’ve learned what’s not true about the flu shot. Now, let’s lay down some facts!

Fact #1: The flu can be extremely serious – even deadly

You are more likely to have serious consequences from the flu than from the other infections for which we more readily vaccinate. In 2015 we had our first measles-related death in over a decade. By contrast, the Centers for Disease control and Prevention estimates between 9.2-35.6 million cases, 140,000-710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000-56,000 deaths from the flu in the U.S. annually.

The inflammatory storm that occurs during a flu infection can result in sepsis, respiratory failure, organ failure, and a six-fold increased risk of heart attack and stroke in the days following infection. While all are at risk, serious cardiovascular events following flu seem to more commonly impact those over 65 years old. By the way, these are also the people most at risk for complications of COVID19, another virus that seems to have serious negative effects on the cardiovascular system.

In the 2017-18 flu season, 80,000 patients died, including 186 children. In the 2018-19 flu season, over 61,000 people died. Grandparents, babies, moms, dads… so many lives needlessly lost. Statistically speaking, you should absolutely get your flu shot.

PS – Please don’t use this as reason not to vaccinate for measles or other vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is the reason we don’t have the number of deaths from these illnesses that we used to have. Indeed, we are now getting a glimpse of what life is like when we DON’T have a vaccine against deadly disease. We are seeing what this can do to the health and wealth of both individuals and communities. Now is not the time to get lax about vaccinating.

Fact #2: There is NO mercury in individual flu vaccines

Unless you are getting a vaccine drawn from a multi-dose vial, there is no mercury in the flu shot. In fact, there has been no mercury in any US licensed vaccine since 2001. And if you are getting your vaccine from a multi-dose vial, the amount in one pediatric dose is equivalent to eating one 3 oz can of tuna fish. Not so scary, is it? Also, the type of mercury in that multi dose vial is Ethyl mercury (like my sweet Aunt Ethyl, not dangerous at all) which is cleared much more rapidly and is less harmful than Methyl mercury (the kind found more commonly in that can of tuna).

Fact #3: Everyone needs a flu shot

Flu shots are not just for the “high risk”. EVERYONE needs a flu shot – to protect themselves and their loved ones and to protect those more vulnerable in our community. The flu shot can be given as early as 6 months of age, at which time the vaccine is actually given in two doses spread apart by a month. After that it is one dose per year.

Fact #4: If you are over 65, try to get the “high dose” or “adjuvanted” flu vaccine

As we get older we do not mount as robust an immune response to vaccines as we do in younger years. We also don’t fight off infections as well and are at greater risk of complications from influenza. Armed with this knowledge, “high dose” and “adjuvanted” flu vaccines were created for people over 65 to offer better protection.

Fluzone High Dose first became available during the 2010-11 flu season. It boosts the immune response by containing four times the antigen (or viral protein) load as a regular flu vaccine. This carries with it a slightly higher rate of non-serious adverse reactions (fatigue, body aches, low grade fever).

In the 2016-17 flu season, an alternate “adjuvanted” flu vaccine, called Fluad, also became available for folks over 65. It does not contain greater amount of antigen but uses an adjuvant (a substance that boosts the immune response to an antigen) to help improve effectiveness in the older population. The side effect profile is similar to the high dose vaccine.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) currently does not recommend one of these vaccines over the other. If neither are available, the ACIP does recommend use of the regular, non-boosted, vaccine in adults over 65.  Any flu vaccine is better than none at all!

And, new this year, the “high dose” and “adjuvanted” flu vaccines for those over 65 will protect against FOUR strains of the flu instead of just three!

Fact #5: Influenza vaccination is extremely important for pregnant moms – here’s why…

Reason 1: Pregnant moms who get the flu are at much higher risk of complications, like pneumonia. Pregnancy is a relatively immune compromised state. We don’t fight off infections as well during pregnancy. Also, that baby pushes up on pregnant moms’ lungs and decreases lung expansion. This is a perfect set-up for a developing pneumonia.

Reason 2: Pregnant moms who get the flu, along with it’s high fever and cough and whole body inflammation, are at a much higher risk of miscarriage and pre-term labor. High fever during pregnancy can also increase risk of neural tube defects and other developmental problems in baby.

Reason 3: The antibodies that moms make in response to the flu vaccine carry over to the baby. Those maternal antibodies help protect babies from influenza during those first months of life when they, themselves, can not yet be vaccinated.

Fact #6: As long as flu is circulating, it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

In an ideal world, everyone gets the flu shot by Halloween. Flu season typically lasts from November until April, some years running as late as May. Because it takes 2 weeks for the flu shot to work, we want to get it before flu season begins. But if you end up not being able to get the flu shot until later, don’t distress. It will still offer protection for the remainder of the flu season.

Other considerations for flu vaccination in pandemic times – Q&A.

1. Question #1: Should I get a flu shot if I have COVID19?

Answer – No. The CDC currently recommends that anyone actively suffering a COVID19 infection wait until they meet criteria to discontinue quarantine before getting a flu vaccine.

2. Question #2: During the COVID pandemic, will it be safe to go out and get a flu vaccine?

Answer – Yes! Doctor’s offices and pharmacies are actively taking precautions to keep you safe while getting your flu vaccine. This may take different forms, such as spacing out immunization appointments to avoid a flu shot “traffic jam”, fully sanitizing rooms between patients, having folks enter and exit through different doors to keep people from crossing paths, drive-through flu clinics, and more. Call your provider’s office to find out what steps they are taking.

3. Questions #3: Will there be a shortage of flu vaccine this year? Will doctors’ offices and pharmacies run out of vaccine?

Answer – We don’t anticipate any problems with supply. Vaccine manufacturers are producing a larger supply of flu shots this year than in years past and, so far, there seems to be no delay in getting flu vaccines out to providers’ offices.

4. Question #4: But I heard that the flu wasn’t that bad this year in Australia. Doesn’t that mean that our flu season won’t be that bad?

Answer – One can only hope. But we won’t know until it’s over. Yes, the measures used to prevent COVID19 infection can also help prevent influenza infection (Masks, sanitizing, and keeping our distance work). But keep in mind that the US has not done as good of a job as other countries at complying with masking and distancing recommendations. These measures only work if we use them. Getting the flu shot is the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the flu.

So, when the world feels crazy and out of control, it helps to know that you have the power to make a difference. YOU have the power to protect health and life. So let’s do all that we can do. Let’s prevent everything we can prevent. Wear a mask, wash your hands, socially distance, and GET YOUR FLU SHOT!

If you have more questions or concerns… ask your healthcare provider. Don’t let misinformation and misunderstandings keep you from being healthy and safe!

Article adapted from  by Dr. Gretchen LaSalle

October 14 Free COVID-19 Testing Event

Click on flyer to download copy.

The Malheur County COVID-19 Taskforce, in partnership with Oregon Health Authority, and local community-based organizations, is proud to announce an upcoming large COVID-19 testing event. Free COVID-19 testing is available to individuals over age seven at the Malheur County Fairgrounds (795 NW 9th St, Ontario) on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This is the 13th and largest planned drive-up testing site organized by the Taskforce.

Flu shots will also be available at the drive-up testing site with limited supply to any Malheur County residents. The Flu Point of Distribution (POD) is for people without insurance who do not have flu or COVID-like symptoms. 

Eligibility

Testing at the Malheur Drive-Up Testing Sites is for any individual over age seven. No symptoms, registration, insurance, or documentation is required.

This testing option is not meant to replace or eliminate other testing offered by local healthcare providers. The goal is to supplement those options in order to ease some of the pressure on the existing system and make the process more accessible to the public. People still should contact their medical provider for guidance and assessment if they have symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath. For medical emergencies, they should call 911 and notify the dispatch personnel that you may have COVID-19.

Testing Procedure

Upon arrival at the Malheur County Fairgrounds testing site, individuals will be required to remain in their vehicles at all times. Each driver should drive cautiously and follow traffic directions. Individuals will be required to complete a screening form. All forms and service available in English and Spanish.

Personnel in full medical protective gear will check the individual’s temperature with a no-touch thermometer and use an oximeter to measure blood oxygen level. Personnel will give instruction on how to self-swab each nostril. The sample will be sent to a laboratory the following day and each person tested will receive a call with negative or positive test results within seven days.

Additional information on COVID-19, flu shots, and the testing site is available by calling the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Parents are understandably nervous about taking their children and teens to their doctors’ offices right now. As a result, children in Oregon are falling behind on their childhood vaccinations.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month and we want to work with families to ensure this pandemic is not followed by an increase in cases of vaccine-preventable diseases or a preventable outbreak. Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) is taking several precautions in our office to provide a safer environment for all clients. We can do drive up vaccines, when requested. Appointment are required for immunizations. Please call 541-889-7279 to schedule. MCHD offers immunizations for all ages and has several free and low cost programs.

With so many people out of work and without health insurance, it’s important to know you can still keep your child safe. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program offers free vaccines to families who cannot afford to pay for their children’s vaccines.

If your children need health insurance, they may be eligible for the Oregon Health Plan (OHP). It is open to all children and teens younger than 19, regardless of immigration status, who meet income and other criteria. MCHD OHP Application Assisters can help you fill out an application.