CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — New River Health District (NRHD) will be offering free seasonal flu vaccine on Tuesday, Oct. 4 from noon until 7 p.m. at a special drive-thru dispensing clinic located at the NRV Fair Grounds.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the vaccines will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at 5581 Fair Grounds Cir, Dublin, Va. Those seeking a vaccination should be sure to wear loose clothing around the arm so that a nurse can administer the flu shot to the upper arm, without you having to get out of the car.

“Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and its potentially severe complications. This unique ‘drive-thru’ approach is proven to be a fast and efficient way to vaccinate a large number of folks in a short time,” said Noelle Bissell, M.D., director, of New River Health District.

Influenza, commonly referred to as “the flu,” is a disease caused by the influenza virus that affects the respiratory system. It is contagious and generally passed from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes or even before flu-like symptoms appear.

A person will most likely become sick one to three days following exposure. Symptoms of the flu include the following:

  • fever
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • extreme fatigue

According to VDH, it is especially important to get a shot this year because of Covid-19’s presence and circulation. Getting infected with both Covid-19 and the flu can increase the severity of the illnesses.

Based on data from the southern hemisphere, VDH says, they expect this to be a more severe flu season than the one from the past few years.

“The timing and duration of flu seasons vary – they can occur from early fall to late spring. Receiving an annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of becoming sick with the flu and spreading the virus to others. When more people get vaccinated, less flu can spread through the community. It takes up to two weeks to develop the vaccine’s full protection,” said Dr. Bissell.

According to VDH, all persons aged 6 months or older should be vaccinated against influenza each year, with more effort made to vaccinate people at higher risk for influenza complications, including the following:

  • Pregnant and postpartum women, or those who will be pregnant during the influenza season.
  • Persons over 65 years of age, including residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
  • People who have chronic lung or heart problems, including asthma.
  • People who have other serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, anemia, cancer, weak immune systems (including those with HIV), or a seizure disorder.

“Herd immunity develops when more people get vaccinated,” Dr. Bissell explained. “There is less virus present to potentially infect those who cannot be immunized such as infants under 6 months old; this helps protect everyone from this potentially deadly disease.” 

VDH says, to help prevent the spread of influenza to people in high-risk groups, people who live with high-risk individuals and healthcare workers should also receive an annual flu vaccine. Throughout different times of the year, those traveling outside the U.S may want to consider the vaccine as well.

According to VDH, approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. each year due to flu illness, and flu-related deaths average about 34,000 per year over the past three decades.

To minimize the risk of contracting or transmitting the flu, VDH suggests the following:

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Consider wearing a mask if one is high risk or if one is having symptoms.
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your cough with a disposable tissue or sleeve, not your hand.
  • Stay at home when sick.

For more information, you can visit New River Health District’s website or call 540-585-3300.