FARGO — Sanford Health is urging everyone to get a flu vaccination to ease the burden on the health care system as flu season will coincide with the coronavirus pandemic starting this fall.
To make it “easier than ever,” Sanford is offering several options for flu shots, including drive-thru vaccination blitzes on Saturdays in parking areas at the Fargodome starting Saturday, Sept. 19.
Health care providers and public health officials are concerned about strains on the health care system as the flu season and pandemic overlap, likely sending waves of patients with upper respiratory infection symptoms to clinics — and, in serious cases, to hospitals.
Because of the seasonal upswing in influenza and other respiratory infections, compounded by the ongoing pandemic, getting a flu shot this season is more important than ever, a Sanford infectious disease doctor said.
“We absolutely don’t want people to have both influenza and COVID-19 infection at the same time,” said Dr. Alison Hornyak, a Sanford pediatric infectious disease specialist.
By lessening the chance of contracting the flu, getting a flu shot will help people avoid having to isolate at home and will alleviate pressure on the health care system.
“We’re already worried about our beds,” because of the pandemic and other illnesses that send people to the intensive care unit, Hornyak said. “We do have a lot of COVID patients currently admitted."
Flu season fluctuates year to year, but typically starts in November, lasting the last four weeks of the year and extending through the first 12 weeks of the following year, she said.
“It really varies year to year,” Hornyak said. “Now’s the time to get your flu vaccination.”
To make getting a flu shot more convenient and safer by enabling safe distancing, Sanford is offering flu-shot blitzes at the Fargodome. Patients will be guided through multiple lanes by staff members and volunteers.
“It’s certainly something new we’re trying this year,” Hornyak said, adding people have become accustomed to drive-thru sample collection for COVID-19 tests.
Sanford’s drive-thru vaccination blitzes will be offered at the Fargodome from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on four consecutive Saturdays: Sept. 19, Sept. 26, Oct. 10 and Oct. 17. To control traffic flow, appointments are required. Patients should call their doctor’s office or 701-234-8830 to schedule an appointment.
Sanford West Fargo Clinic, 1220 Sheyenne St., is hosting vaccination blitzes by appointment only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the same four Saturdays.
All ages are welcome during any of the clinic dates. The nasal mist flu vaccine will not be available at the blitzes. Patients will be asked to wear face masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines. A mask will be provided for those who don’t have one.
Flu vaccinations are also available at all Fargo-Moorhead metro Sanford primary care clinics by appointment only. Call your doctor’s office to schedule. For the first time, Sanford specialty clinics also are offering flu vaccinations; patients will be offered a flu vaccine during any regular Sanford visit.
For more information on how to get a flu shot, go online to SanfordHealth.org/Flu.
Essentia will offer flu-shot clinics and other options but has not yet announced details.
Last year, according to state figures, an average of 35% of North Dakota residents got a flu vaccine, with young children and older people getting vaccinated at a rate greater than 50%, Hornyak said.
"Obviously, room for improvement there," she said.