Drive-thru flu shot clinics planned

Providence St. Mary Medical Center officials said mass flu vaccination clinics, like this drive-thru event at the hospital in 2019, are preparing the medical community for vaccinating large swaths of the population against COVID-19 when that vaccine becomes available.

Two upcoming flu vaccination clinics in Walla Walla will, between them, cover most age ranges.

Flu season usually begins in October and can last through May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual immunizations for adults to protect them from the flu.

The CDC is also stressing that protection is more important this year as some flu symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19.

First on the calendar is a drive-by vaccination clinic at Walla Walla High School, 4-6 p.m., Wednesday, for people ages 5-18.

The event is a collaboration between The Health Center of Walla Walla, Walla Walla County Department of Community Health and Walla Walla Public Schools. The shots are free, and can be reserved by emailing to help@thehealthcenterww.org with time slots in mind.

Unscheduled vaccinations will be offered on a first-come basis during the two-hour clinic.

Families who want their students to receive the flu vaccine through The Health Center must complete a permission form, available at ubne.ws/34xCHVI.

On Oct. 24, Providence St. Mary Medical Center will vaccinate adults ages 18 and older at its annual drive-thru clinic. This year the event is at the Providence Southgate Medical Park’s main building entrance, off Second Avenue.

The flu shots will be free, given as folks sit in their vehicles and administered 9 a.m.-noon, or until the vaccine is gone.

People can be vaccinated without leaving their cars, and no appointments are necessary. Participants are asked to follow signs and wear their masks to protect vaccinators.

Walk-ups also are accepted.

Although the clinic is open to all adults, Providence is encouraging those with no health insurance and low income to participate.

No vaccines for children will be available at this clinic. The clinic also will not have high dosage flu vaccine for people 65 and over or the FluMist applications.

St. Mary spokeswoman Kathleen Obenland said the training and inter-agency collaboration from doing mass drive-thru flu vaccination clinics over the years will dovetail into preparations for mass COVID-19 immunizations in Walla Walla once that vaccine becomes available.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 509-526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.