Mayor Keller, City, Community Partners to Ramp Up Annual Flu Shot Drive as Capacity Test for Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Annual voluntary flu shot drive expanding to reach higher numbers of people, more vulnerable populations with drive-thru sites

Aug. 28, 2020

The City of Albuquerque is scaling up voluntary flu vaccination efforts for City employees, their dependents, and vulnerable populations including seniors and people experiencing homelessness, and using the expanded effort as an exercise to prepare for a potential mass vaccination effort for COVID-19 when a vaccine becomes available.

“Albuquerque has emerged as one of the healthiest cities in the country—but as all of us struggle to contain the pandemic, a voluntary vaccine is a big part of being able to fully turn the faucet back on,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Once the vaccine is developed, it should be available widely, not just to a select few. Using our annual flu shot drive as a capacity test for a major, coordinated effort is an innovative local solution to build equity into public health.”

Dr. Mark DiMenna, Deputy Director of the City’s Environmental Health Department, said, “The flu is a major public health concern for Albuquerque every year, but this year it’s also key to reducing the strain on our health care system and the risk to vulnerable populations who could catch both flu and COVID-19 at the same time, with devastating outcomes.”

The City of Albuquerque holds a voluntary flu vaccination drive for City employees and their dependents annually, but this year’s drive in coordination with the New Mexico Immunization Coalition will be expanded, and incorporate COVID-safe practices—including offering drive-through vaccines in addition to traditional walk-up vaccines. Drive-through immunization sites for employees and their dependents will include the Balloon Museum, Civic Plaza and Mariposa Park. The public will be able to take advantage of drive-through immunizations at senior centers across the city.

In addition, the City will use the flu vaccine drive as a drill to evaluate the ability to provide coordination and support for drive-thru and walk-up immunization operations and determine what modifications might be needed for any future plans aimed at distributing future voluntary mass vaccinations.

Areas of testing include: cold storage capacity, multiple-site staging, traffic flow, staffing, public outreach, and more. This cross-department effort includes: Emergency Operations Center, Joint Information Center, Human Resources, ABQ Fire Rescue, Environmental Health, and the New Mexico Immunization Coalition.

The Immunization Coalition is a statewide public-private partnership which began working with the City of Albuquerque this year to achieve timely immunization for City employees.

 “Flu vaccine is available now. Getting vaccinated is one easy thing we can do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. It is especially important that our most vulnerable community members, older adults, kids under five, pregnant people and those with chronic conditions, protect themselves with a flu vaccine,” said Anna Pentler, Executive Director of the New Mexico Immunization Coalition. “By each of us getting vaccinated, we build our community immunity to the flu, and we will be doing our part to avoid a hospital stay or overwhelm our already busy hospital systems.”

The City created a working group in June to begin looking into ways to ensure people get vaccinated and last month that group joined the New Mexico Immunization Coalition, which includes representatives from health care providers and state and local government. In conjunction with this group, the City is undertaking efforts to educate the public on why a flu vaccine is more important this year than ever, in addition to serving as a partner for distributing vaccines to the public.

Flu vaccines are a key component of keeping people healthy because they prevent illness and reduce the risk of spreading influenza to others. This year, getting a flu vaccine can help prevent you from getting a co-infection of COVID-19 and influenza and help to avoid overloading the hospital system, which is likely to see an increase in patients during flu season.

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