Get a flu shot, Kome urges

Prisma Health has launched an aggressive systemwide flu-vaccination campaign with reduced-cost flu vaccinations being offered throughout its physician offices, hospitals, mobile clinics, community outreach, business-health sites or additional flu-vaccine events in 11 counties across the Midlands and Upstate. Information on Prisma Health’s flu prevention efforts can be found on a dedicated webpage,

Prisma Health hopes to vaccinate approximately 200,000 people over the 2020 flu season, a record for the state’s largest healthcare system.

“Even if people have skipped getting the vaccination in years past, now is absolutely the year to get one,” warned Saria Saccocio, MD, Ambulatory Chief Medical Officer at Prisma Health. “Everyone is at risk for getting COVID-19 this year, which means everyone is at risk for the potential of having COVID-19 and flu at the same time. That could be catastrophic for many patients.”

Flu immunizations will be offered at multiple sites to maximize community access, including some drive-thru clinics that can shift to offer COVID testing, flu immunizations and eventually COVID-19 vaccines. Both Midlands and Upstate will have some flu-only vaccine sites. Prisma Health is working to ensure that everyone throughout its communities has access to the flu immunization.

“Because the flu vaccine will be so important during this COVID-19 pandemic, our desire is to remove the cost barrier as much as possible,” said Saccocio. “We will continue to process insurance since most insurance plans fully cover the cost of vaccinations but have also taken steps to reduce the cost for self-pay patients by offering a discount for those paying at the time of service. In addition, 18 free flu-vaccine clinics – including some in partnership with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control – will also be held systemwide.

Prisma Health already is offering flu vaccines in many of its clinic sites, as well as immunizing its own team members and working with local businesses and schools to help vaccinate their workers and students. To help time-crimped families, many Prisma Health practices also will offer Saturday flu vaccination clinics.

“We are committed to providing this critical support for our communities, especially as we go into this flu season with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Steve Shelton, MD, who heads Prisma Health’s COVID-19 response in the Midlands. “Prisma Health is here to take care of its communities and help ensure that everyone does everything they can to protect themselves at this critical time.”

Community members are urged to get their flu shots as soon as possible to maximize their immune response through the entire flu season.

“We are proud to do our part but need our community members to continue doing theirs – whether it’s getting their flu vaccines, socially distancing when in public, wearing masks or practicing great hand hygiene. We’re all in this together,” said Wendell James, MD, who heads Prisma Health’s COVID-19 response in the Upstate.

Because flu symptoms closely mirror COVID-19 symptoms, it can be virtually impossible to differentiate between flu and COVID-19 without testing. That means a case of the flu, even if it turns out to be mild, can cause substantial disruption to school and work for patients forced to isolate.

While flu is highly contagious, flu immunizations can significantly diminish its spread. Even if someone immunized against the flu still gets the flu, their illness is typically less severe and shorter in duration. Virtually everyone, including pregnant women and children six months or older, should be vaccinated against the flu. Vaccination is particularly important for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart and lung diseases.

Flu vaccines cannot be given to those who have COVID-19 or think they have COVID-19.

Hospital-based drive-thru flu vaccine sites

Starting Tuesday, Sept. 15, all Prisma Health hospital-based drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in the Upstate will begin offering flu immunizations. That includes the sites at Greenville Memorial Hospital, Baptist Easley Hospital, Greer Memorial Hospital, Laurens County Memorial Hospital and Oconee Memorial Hospital.

·        Greenville Memorial Hospital, weekdays, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

·        Baptist Easley Hospital, weekdays, 8 a.m.-noon.

·        Laurens County Memorial Hospital, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8 a.m.–12 p.m.

·        Oconee Memorial Hospital, Tuesdays, 7-11 a.m.

·        Greer Memorial Hospital, weekdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

In the Midlands, the Richland Hospital-based COVID testing site in Columbia will also launch a drive-thru site at its 14 Medical Park garage on Sept. 15. Hours will be 9 a.m.–6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.–1 p.m. on Sundays.

Everyone participating in the flu vaccine clinics must wear a mask; if participants do not have a mask, they will be given one.

A limited number of free flu vaccines will also be offered at the following locations. Additional sites may be added as well.

Immunizations will also be offered to children through pediatric clinic sites.

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