ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As the City of Albuquerque anticipates flu season, Mayor Tim Keller and public health officials have announced that the city will be providing a voluntary, enhanced flu vaccination program to residents that will also help the city prepare for when COVID-19 vaccinations will be made available to the public. While many specific details surrounding this program have yet to be announced, city officials say flu vaccinations will be crucial this year to ensure hospital beds remain open for those with COVID-19.
Flu vaccination program
In preparation for flu season and additional COVID-19 cases in the fall, Mayor Keller announced that the City of Albuquerque is planning on an enhanced flu vaccination program which he stated would be a “dry-run” if the city has to offer vaccinations for the entire metro area. Between community centers, senior centers, and large parking lots, the city can offer a variety of locations that can be utilized for vaccinations.
Mayor Keller stated that these preparations will be a precursor to try and be ready to vaccinate those in the city who choose to do so once a vaccination becomes available. Discussing the challenges of supply and demand when it comes to flu vaccines, the mayor said as a city it would be ready initially to take on flu vaccinations for city employees and their dependents which would roughly equal 18,000 residents in the Albuquerque area.
These flu vaccinations would be available outside of providers such as doctors, Walgreens etc. Additionally, the city aims to provide flu vaccinations to high-risk populations.
These sites are voluntary and would be available to ensure vaccinations are accessible to individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive one. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Executive Director of the New Mexico Immunization Coalition Anna Pentler stated that the flu season is a major concern.
“Flu season is just around the corner so please do your part to protect as many people as possible against the flu by getting yourself and your loved ones immunized,” said Pentler. “You do not want to get both the flu and COVID at the same time. Infection with flu and COVID-19 at the same time is more dangerous than just having flu, or just having COVID-19 and even though the flu vaccine may not be a hundred percent protective, it has been shown to keep people out of the hospital and it’s important that we do our best to reserve the hospital beds for COVID-19 patients as much as we can.”
Citing the New Mexico Department of Health, Environmental Health Department Director Dr. Mark DiMenna stated that seasonal vaccines are largely behind due to stay at home orders. Health officials are concerned about the risks of co-infection as the viruses effect the same systems and have similar respiratory symptoms such as difficulty breathing or fever.
City officials say there will be opportunities where the flu vaccinations come at no cost. If you have insurance, you may be asked for your health insurance information so they can be billed and then reimbursed.
Many details of the vaccination sites remain unknown at this time. However, Mayor Keller states additional information regarding cost, and exact locations sites are to be determined and will be announced ahead of flu season in about three to four weeks.